40k How To's: Deployment - Wargaming Forum and Wargamer Forums
Tactica Articles This is the place to post if you have an in-depth tactics article or guide on how to use a unit or army. Codex specific guides go in their respective subforum. General topics belong in the main forum.

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-29-13, 08:53 AM Thread Starter
Romero's Own's Avatar
Romero's Own's Flag is: Scotland
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Right behind you.
Posts: 1,442
Reputation: 29
Default 40k How To's: Deployment

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.


Ranged Armies

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.


Mechanized Armies

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.

The Silent Lions Chapter

Winter Falls


Give a man a match and he will be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.
Romero's Own is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-12-13, 05:18 AM
Senior Member
Iraqiel's Avatar
Iraqiel's Flag is: Australia
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Top End
Posts: 2,422
Reputation: 68

Some good considerations there Romero, (plus excellent Terry Pratchett quote in your sig), however I'd be interested to hear you go further than the basic principles you've talked about here and see some discussion on shaping deployments for objectives, relative to terrain and to allow you to set 'ambushes' where you can concentrate your firepower to best effect without putting your flanks or centre at too much risk in the first turn.


Check out my Imperial Guard Battle-Group-in-the-making as it slowly takes form! Located just here:

And my collection of all things - particularly Grey Knights; Guard and Adeptus Mechanicus: https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...d.php?t=129966
Iraqiel is offline  
post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-12-13, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
Romero's Own's Avatar
Romero's Own's Flag is: Scotland
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Right behind you.
Posts: 1,442
Reputation: 29

Thanks for the response Iraqiel!

I wanted to do a really basic overview, kind of for beginners, and then maybe look into aspects of it in more detail. Although that gives me an idea....

To any lurkers around, how would you feel about a kind of competition. I post up a map and give you a set army, and then you deploy it how you think is best, PM it to me and I pick a winner and post it up for all to comment on. Thoughts/opinions?

The Silent Lions Chapter

Winter Falls


Give a man a match and he will be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.
Romero's Own is offline  
post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-27-13, 05:18 PM
moshiro's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 37
Reputation: 1

First of all the most I enjoy about WH40k are the battle tactics. I am absolutely thrilled by the idea of being able to outplay your opponent by utilising tactics that we can read about in books from the best strategists in history.

About your article, it is like said very basic. I would also like to see you go a little more in depth about deployment and counter possibilities. Because I would for example almost never deploy my ranged army all the way in the back. An army also has lots of different kind of units with different purposes. All of them can be specified into general types with roles and specific places on the board they should be at the end of your deployment.

A Lot of room to discuss and write about!

on a final note: I am looking for video's/articles about battle tactics in wh40k. I am not talking about how to build an army, but how to move it to get the most out of it.

In search of the best battle strategists in WH40k
moshiro is offline  
post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-27-13, 10:04 PM
Senior Member
Sethis's Avatar
Sethis's Flag is: United Kingdom
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Alston, Cumbria
Posts: 4,190
Reputation: 58

Regarding melee armies:

You need to have your fastest units on the flanks, and your slowest units in the middle of the deployment zone, otherwise you are very vulnerable to being refuse-flanked where someone deploys in a single corner and obliterates your closest flank, meaning you have to run across the long diagonal - the least efficient option. If you have faster units such as bikes, cavalry or beasts on the flank then you can respond much faster to this tactic. Every melee army MUST have fast units for this very reason, and why pure infantry lists such as Green Tide are generally terrible. They simply can't respond fast enough.

Regarding shooting armies:

Unless there is an army that I'm unaware of, the basic Troops choice traditionally has 12-30" range guns, which, if you deploy on two flanks as you suggest, means that half your infantry is going to be completely out of range for the entire game if your opponent simply dogpiles one flank with his entire force (as I would do).

I find a better option is to put 48"+ range guns on the outer corners (Lascannons, MLs) and anything with a shorter range in the midfield. This often means that your 48" guns are left almost entirely alone for the entire game, as the vast bulk of your army is pushing into the middle of the table and threatening the enemy much more directly. Most shooting armies have infantry that only really become effective in the Rapid Fire range band (12-18") so always staying as far back as possible is very inefficient. What you want to do instead is advance for 1-2 turns, and then step back again when necessary. This gives you more mobility to access all areas of the table with your army, reduces the amount of cover the enemy can use, and if units start running then they have at least two turns to rally, instead of just one.

So actually most of the time when you deploy along the long table edge, it doesn't matter which army type you're using, the best plan is probably something close to the last picture, with 3 blocks of units - most of the strength in the middle, with long range firepower or fast melee/transports on the flanks.

Just noticed that Romero was banned, but thought I'd add my thoughts to people reading the thread!

90% of people think they are above average.

Statistically Improbable. Psychologically Inevitable.
Sethis is offline  
post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-27-13, 10:53 PM Thread Starter
Romero's Own's Avatar
Romero's Own's Flag is: Scotland
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Right behind you.
Posts: 1,442
Reputation: 29

Well at least one person fell for my trick

I'm not banned though, still around.

Thanks for the great feedback and contributions from you both, it's interesting to see how others use their armies.

The Silent Lions Chapter

Winter Falls


Give a man a match and he will be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.
Romero's Own is offline  
post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-17-17, 03:32 AM
alex_mac47's Avatar
alex_mac47's Flag is: Australia
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 92
Reputation: 7
Default Slow to the table - how many years?

I think you have done a great job at lining out the basics for each of the themed deployments.

I am an advocate for thinking carefully about what you want to achieve before you put down your first model, be that relative to terrain, objectives or your opponents(') deployment.

As an IG mechanised INF player, I find there are many truths in your concepts of mech deployments mentioned, mixed with some of the rangers principles. For me, the key issues are:
  • Meaningful mass - have I got enough firepower/bodies(you can never have enough guardsmen...) to achieve my intent against the situational adversary?
  • Freedom of movement - Can you see or move easily to see what you want to focus that mass on?
  • Mutual support - Are your elements supporting each other or dislocated? Both have their strength, but I think you should make the decision as part of your set-up as it can determine how you are able to respond to changes in the game after the first shots are fired.
  • Purposeful placement - By placing my units in this location can they achieve their mission? Eg: Is it the best option to place bullgryn on a flank to seize/hold an OBJ knowing they will mostly be facing CC attacks vice shooting attacks; Are they best placed or should I use a shooty/fast attack option to blast the CC unit before they reach the OBJ and then conduct a snatch/grab later in the game?

I think your article goes a long way to assisting players with the key principles for different games styles.

"Forward we go, unto victory or death!"
Laurence Kronos
Commander 4th Bde
Coronan 51st Grenadiers Regiment

Army Log: Coronan 51st Grenadiers Regiment - https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...y&army_id=1034

Project Log: Coronan 51st Grenadiers Regiment, 4Bde - https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...54#post1686354

Terrain Log: Terrain Time - not with Tim the Tool Man... - https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...01#post1907601
alex_mac47 is offline  

  Lower Navigation
Go Back   Wargaming Forum and Wargamer Forums > Warhammer 40K > Tactica Articles

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Wargaming Forum and Wargamer Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome