It was in that most famous book “The Art of War”, that Sun Tzu wrote the words;
However, for those of us unable to read the language of our Chinese relatives, the English translation is:
"Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought."
Now you may think that a Chinese General from over 2000 years ago is a million miles from our table-top game set in the 41st Millennium.
However with the quote above, I think we can use it to better our ability with our various armies.
Deployment is a phase largely ignored by a lot of new players, and skimmed over by even some of the veteran players, but how you deploy your army plays a significant part in how effective said army will be, and can make a serious difference in the final result.
I’m going to try and pass on my knowledge on how to prepare your forces for the game. I’ll look at the three main “types” of armies, the Close Combat army; such as the Tyranids and Orks, the Ranged army; such as Tau and Imperial Guard, and the Mechanised army; such as Imperial Guard and Space Marines.
Close Combat Armies
With a close combat army, your only real option is to play aggressively, and that means getting your hands, or your claws, on your enemy as quickly as possible. And I don’t disagree with this, but I find that the best deployment strategy for a Close Combat based army differs wildly depending upon whether or not you have the first turn.
Obviously, with an army that excels at Close Combat you obviously want the first turn, and if you have the good fortune to get it, then you want to set them up in such a way that they can cover as much ground as possible in the first turn.
A simple rule of thumb is to leave as few gaps in your lines as possible and make it difficult for your opponent to deploy in any kind of good position. Have a look at the map below for an example, where I have placed my Tyranid army down, safe in the knowledge I have the first turn.
As you can see, all the models are placed right on the edge of the deployment zone with no big gaps in my line, presenting a threat right from the go and endangering every part of the board.
However, you may not always have the first turn, and for a Close Combat army this can be a real problem when it comes to deployment, but it shouldn’t be.
When you have the second turn as a Close Combat army, you want to use every bit of cover on the board to shield your troops for the inevitable fire from your opponents. With the new rules in 6th edition there should be plenty of cover for your troops to cower behind before moving out at the first opportunity.
You will undoubtedly lose a few models from your opponents first turn, but hopefully if you have deployed them in cover then you will have more than enough left to exact your revenge.
An example would be the deployment below, where the same army of Tyranids on the same map is deployed, but this time without the first turn. As you can see, all the units are in cover and relatively safe for the first turn.
To sum up, if you have the first turn then put all your units as far forward as you can get them while ensuring you leave no holes in your lines. And if you have the second turn then cover is your friend.
Yet with a Ranged army, or a Gunline army, your Deployment strategy should be radically different as, unlike the Close Combat army, you want to be as far away from your opponent as you can rather than as close.
The most common attempts to achieve this I have seen is either all the units in one corner, or stretched in a thin line across the table. Although they can work, they are far from the most effective deployment strategies for your Ranged Army.
There are two that I have seen and that I have used myself.
The first is the iconic “Gunline”, where you spread your army evenly across the back board edge, putting as much distance as possible between you and your opponent and hoping that you can pretty much kill the attacking army before they ever reach you. While It has been proven to work, I find that this “Gunline” is very static, and leaves you little room for tactics other than just shooting and wearing away your opponents army.
Below is an example of a typical “Gunline”, where the Tau have been deployed. As you can see, they are as far back as possible and stretched all across the board so as to be able to target as many things as possible.
The other tactic that I use when fielding a Ranged army is to split the army into two groups and putting them on opposite sides of the deployment zones. What this does is ensure that your opponent will have to either split his forces, or send everything after one group, allowing the other group to keep firing.
I much prefer this method as opposed to the “Gunline” as it gives you more room for tactics, and a bit more breathing room when the opponent’s army reaches you.
Below is the same Tau army, and same board as in the example above, but this time they are deployed using the second tactic. Both groups are powerful in their own right, dangerous enough for it to be fatal for your opponent to ignore them and so forcing him to do exactly what you want, splitting up his army.
Both these tactics can work whether you have the first turn or not, however if your opponent has already deployed, be sure to note where his most powerful units are, and try and place your own powerful units in a position to combat any serious threats.
With a Ranged army, distance is always your friend.
When you are deploying a mechanized army, throw all of the above advice out of the window.
With both of the other army types, you want to get the first turn and deploy first, but with a mechanized army, you don’t actually want to deploy first. This is all but given, as your opponent will nearly always choose to go first, and if you win the roll you can just elect to go second.
Now this will let you see how your opponent lays down his forces and adapt your own deployment to take this into account. You really want to watch out for any high strength weapons that could damage your vehicles and cripple your army, as well as deploying to exploit your opponents weak spots.
There are two strategies that are often used with Mechanized armies.
The first is perhaps the most common, similar to the Ranged “Gunline”, placing all your forces spread across the table so as to leave no gaps that your opponent could take advantage.
An example would be the deployment below, where the Space Marines are spread across the board facing off against the Tyranids.
However whenever I play a Mechanized army, I prefer to split my army into three groups, placing my high-threat vehicles in the centre with my weaker units on each edge of my deployment zone. What this does is draw most of your opponents fire to the centre while you flank him with the rest of your army, utilizing your mobility and speed.
Below is an example. Same armies and board as above, but now I have moved the Landraiders, the Predator, and the Storm Talon to the centre where they will draw fire as the Landspeeders, Rhinos and Bikes flank the Tyranids.
So that just about concludes my rundown on the basics of deployment.
Any questions or thoughts, feel free to post up and I’ll do my best to respond.