Wraithsight - Deployment

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This issue of Wraithsight deals with a critical factor of the game that many of us don't pay enough attention to- deployment. Enjoy!
You're done. Finally. You've put together your list, and had it checked, and double checked, on forums, at game stores, you've even consulted your dog. You made your purchases without batting an eye- and why worry?- this army is the most awesomest-greatest-wondrous-amazing-astounding-and-all-the-other-adjectives-you-can-think-of. You've even gone through with knife, paintbrush, and green stuff to reinforce the fact that this is the greatest show on earth.
So you head over to your local hobby store, ready to mop the floor with those unfortunate souls who do not yet know the glory of your Eldar army. And then you look at the table and proceed to vomit in your shoe.
Why? Because the table is all wrong! It has too little scenery for your fragile Eldar army, or maybe so much that you'll never have more than 18" LoS to anything. It's all wrong. Knowing your luck you'll end up playing against row after row of static Tau on that open field table, or facing an all genesetaler/hormogaunt swarm on the terrain-infested table.
Relax man, these things happen. And especially if you're playing in a tournament. But what can you do to account for this?
One thing is to take a balanced list. And well, I can drone on and on about that all day long, but I'm not going to take that angle right now. What I am going to do, is talk about Geometry.
Maybe the fact that I've mentioned math has made some of the readers vomit in their own shoes. But what I'm really talking about is- deployment.
For some of you- deployment may just be something you don't consider when you craft your list. Maybe it isn't something you consider until you're mindlessly dropping unit after unit onto the board, measuring 12" in and throwing everything up front. Maybe deployment for you is based on generally good ideas, like placing your rangers in cover.
But for those of you looking into the reasons why advanced gamers are so, "advanced", deployment is one of them. Experienced, highly skilled players practice good deployment techniques and incorporate them all throughout their strategy. The latter part is particularly emphasized, as many of you employ good general practices regarding deployment, but some of us should really employ this key factor in our overall strategy.

1. Deployment as it affects your list.

The choices you make regarding your list- unit selections and configurations, all affect deployment. Your FoC makeup determines the sequence in which a particular unit is deployed, and factors like spacing, terrain, the unit's designated role, your strategy, and your mission all factor into deployment. Let's use this unit as an example:
10 Guardians- Shuriken Cannon.
This is your bare bones, minimal setup for this unit. Note how different options affect its ability to deploy:
Unit size: Mathammer tells us that larger units have better durability and better scoring output, so points values aside, why wouldn't we want a 20 man guardian unit instead? Deployment may be a reason. A basic understanding of geometry tells us that the 10 man unit is easier to deploy behind terrain, and easier to sneak from terrain to terrain. 20 guardians sounds great on paper, and definitely has its uses, but if you aren't used to deploying that many models at once you may end up doing a sloppy job, exposing yourself to enemy attacks before you are ready to handle them. For an exercise, setup a table with varying terrain, and try deploying 5, 10, and 20 models at a time, trying to make use of terrain and mission objectives. You'll notice there is some skill required to do this effectively.
Weapon options and squad leaders: These also affect the deployment of a unit, as it affects its specific combat assignment. In our example- the Shuriken Cannon gives us an effective range, a number of shots, and a strength AP value that can all be increased/decreased from swapping to stormies with flamers to using an EML Definition: Eldar Missile Launcherwith twice the range. The decision to upgrade with a Warlock may bolster the unit's durability in the case of Conceal/Embolden, or upgrade its short ranged output when using Enhance/Destructor. Even upgrading to a Spiritseer may affect the use and deployment of a wraithlord or wraithguard, for example.
Transport: What if we instead of increasing the size of our guardian unit, decided to mount it in a Wave Serpent? This also radically affects our ability to deploy the unit. We may not have as much concern about effective range anymore, but we have new concerns about deploying a large skimmer, and decisions to make about deploying embarked or disembarked. Transport alters your basic movement consideration during deployment.
You can see how an individual unit selection and its configuration and upgrades affect its deployment, so on a larger scale you need to consider how deploying that unit affects the deployment of the rest of your army. The bare bones 10 man unit might want to be within striking range of an enemy transport, or a 20 man unit may be taking up too much prime real-estate for its worth. As this unit is a Troops choice, it will follow in sequence after heavy support is deployed, and that weighs in on its deployment as well.

2. Deployment as it affects your strategy.

At this point you may be developing an understanding of how your list deploys, so let's throw another variable in there: Basic Strategy.
Suppose my 10 man guardian unit is designed to cover light transport/fast attack threats and has a secondary role in claming table quarters, with the overall strategy being a screened countercharge. To me this means I need an area of my deployment zone where I can bring my weapons to bear to quickly respond to enemy light skimmers, rhino transports, fast moving wartrukks, bikes, and Dark Eldar raiders. The problem is- I'm deploying a troops choice to counter what is most likely to be my opponent's fast attack, which he will deploy last. This means I'll have to find an area where I can respond quickly to the most conceivable enemy threats without over-exposing myself to my opponent's early shooting and blitzing units. Sounds tough, right? It is. What this means is I'll want a "sweet spot" towards the front (but not exactly on the marker- this is IMPORTANT!) that offers good fire lanes for my shuricannon that I can attain with my basic movement rate and still trying to maintain a defensive terrain position.
If my 10 man unit is on a mech, blitz-style list and its combat role is light disruption and table quarter claiming, then I might have considered mounting the unit in a Wave Serpent. Maybe I've armed my Wave Serpent for anti-tank duty, which means twin-linked Brightlances or EML's. In this situation I can opt to deploy disembarked- which frees up the Wave Serpent for anti-tank duty, or maybe I want to hit that remote, poorly defended area of the battlefield- so I might have configured my Wave Serpent as a true fire-support transport, sporting twin scatter lasers, or shuricannons, and possibly a hull-mounted shuricannon. In terms of deployment this gives me some "fudge" room, as I can deploy further back into my own territory and out of LoS, and still be able to cover the ground I need easily while transported in the Wave Serpent.
It's not inconceivable that I'm running a balanced list capable of blitzing or screening, and experienced tournament players will know that your army may be challenged to do both during a tournament. The adjustments you make due to an opponent and/or mission all factor into your core strategy, which should always feature deployment as a key to victory.
One of the things I do when I'm working out a tournament list is to physically set up the models I'll be using, and I even go so far as to deploy them on a generic battlefield. When I'm at home I'll clear my computer desk off and set down a 2' x 4' section of foamboard to simulate my deployment zone (for those of you who want to know what I'm talking about, look at my armies under the sticky thread "Eldar Armies of Tau online". This is a visual and tactile aid for me in determining things like effective combat teams, sequence of deployment, and deploying under different tactical settings. As my list is a tournament, take-on-all-comers type list I'll look at different deployment configurations based on "set plays" I might run against an opponent- such as deploying one configuration for a screened counter, and deploying differently to set up a corner blitz. These ideas lead us to mission considerations.

3. Missions as they affect your deployment.

So you're working with the geometric mechanics of individual units, and their sequencing and location based on your set play which you've selected due to your opponent's army. Yet another wrinkle in all of this is "How does the mission affect my deployment?"
Many tournament rules and missions are based in part on rewarding balanced armies. This trickles down to mission selection as determined by the tournament organizer. A standard mix I've seen in tournaments is at least one table quarters game, one escort mission, and generally one take and hold type mission. You're also likely to encounter one of Alpha, Gamma, and Omega rules missions, as each mission and ruleset may favor one type of army, yet many organizers work to ensure that balanced armies run by skilled players stand the greatest chance of victory overall.
What this means when considering deployment is that you should be thinking of what your mission objectives are, as well as the settings around that mission. If you're playing a take and hold mission in an Alpha ruleset, you may be more willing to grind it out and sacrifice more units in order to achieve the mission first and foremost. If it's an escort mission in a nightfight, you might actually be better off deploying long ranged fire support closer to the edge of your deployment zone, and blitzing with your assault units.
Missions also change the specific geometry of your deployment zone on occasion too. Some missions require deployment in table quarters, some use rectangles, and others use wedges or even several fronts, such as breakthrough missions. Practice and experience deploying in these conditions that is conducive to a mission objective tests both the ruggedness of your army lists, as well as your skills in deployment, strategy, and tactics.
Omega missions pose some interesting challenges to deployment as well, due to the reserves rule. Missions also affect your decisions to do things like deepstrike, or skyleap, use infiltration, etc. The more experience you get playing with different missions and different rulesets, the more rounded a player you become, and the better you become at deployment.

4. Deployment can be used as an offensive weapon!

Some players who are skilled in the art of deployment will attest to the idea that deployment can in fact be used as a weapon. One way in which this is achievable is to use what you know about your opponent, his army and strategy, and again…geometry (both unit geometry and deployment zone geometrics), deployment sequence, and objectives to do so.
Let's say I'm playing an army which consists of:
1 Doomseer
8 Harlequins (Shadowseer, kisses)
3 man jetbike unit with shuricannon
5 Pathfinders
10 Guardians with scatter laser
8 Dire Avengers in Wave Serpent
6 Dire Avengers (in Falcon)
2 Vibrocannons
1 Falcon
And facing a standard Space Marine army, roughly consisting of:
1 Chaplain or Captain
5 Terminators (Assault cannon)
Standard Dreadnought
Las/Plas tactical squad
Heavy Bolter/flamer tactical squad (in rhino)
Scouts (sniper rifles, heavy bolter)
1 Landspeeder (assault cannon, heavy bolter)
1 6 man Dev squad with 3x Heavy Bolters
1 Predator
I'm running a mix of unit types, foot units, skimmers, stationary units, and jetbikes. Now we roll for mission and get gamma level cleanse- a very popular mission.
Now- setting the terrain board and agreeing on terrain is a critical factor in deployment. A good general rule is to set quarters and edges roughly equal if you are playing a balanced list. Maybe you and your opponent have a large centerpiece (10-12"), and you each have a large (8-12") piece of terrain, and two smaller (6" or less) pieces. My opponent goes first and places one of the large pieces of terrain on his board edge. I counter by taking the largest piece and placing it in the dead center of the board. I do this to "triangulate"
where his fixed attack is most likely to be, as well as block as many long range fire lanes as possible. If I were up against an assault-oriented list, I would be more likely to favor the largest piece to one side, as this will help dictate where the open area or "flat" is, the ground I'll need to defend from his fast moving horde unit.
After terrain is placed- ALWAYS be sure and examine the battlefield, CLOSELY. Agree on area/difficult/level of terrain- this is a very important step! In our example- my list will never beat his in a flat shootout, so I want as much area terrain as I can find, because he's sporting more raw firepower, but I'm sporting more portable fire and better assault capabilities. It's now up to me to use my diviniation as a Farseer not only to predict where major firefights and assaults may be, but act to force my prediction upon my opponent!
Given the opponent and mission, I select my core strategy, or "set play". I opt for a stunted midfield countercharge, which means I'll "stunt" my faster units towards one table quarter to draw fire and/or transports, while sending my harlies midfield, where I intend to do most of the damage in close combat, and setting smallish shuriken traps as I stunt back to centerfield with my skimmers and launch my real attack. Now it's time to deploy:
Losing my strategy roll, my opponent decides I should deploy first, which allows me to select my table quarter. Now- given the mission and my list, and knowing the main fight will take place centerfield, I choose a corner with one of the larger terrain pieces- mainly to keep my skimmers covered, and provide a nice slab of area terrain where my vibrocannons will best support my attack. I'm deploying with the intention of moving second- which may give me final turn opportunities for claming table quarters. I start by dropping my Falcon behind area terrain, ensuring he doesn't have LoS. When multiple units are available from your deployment sequence- deploy the FASTER unit first. Between the vibros and my falcon (both Heavy support choices, which must be deployed first), I choose the falcon because a) It will be much easier to adjust during the battle and b) It should spend the entire game moving over 6" anyway due to glancing skimmer rules.
My opponent deploys similarly, dropping his predator deep behind area terrain. I already have an advantage here- my Falcon can cover a lot more ground while firing than his pred. Plus- this allows me to drop my vibrocannons, conscious of where his major armor is. We continue to deploy, and I'm keeping mental note of where his stationary, slogging, mounted, and fast units are. Different units on his list present different liabilities on mine. For example- his speeder is a definite problem if it gets the drop on my harlies, while the devastators will shred my guardians. Key concerns for my skimmers are his skimmer, predator, dreadnought, termies, and tac squad- in that specific order.
Once both sides have deployed, an experienced player can reasonably make general predictions on when and where things are going to happen. This is based on knowing effective ranges and determining threat priorites, while keeping missions in mind. Practicing good deployment, understanding geometry, knowing your enemy, and keeping a core strategy all come into play in using deployment as an offensive weapon.

Final comments: general tips on deployment.

  • 1. When the mission does not define order sequence, always deploy under the assumption you will not have first turn. Deploying for second turn can be tricky at first, but once mastered, you may even find that moving second can be used as an advantage.
  • 2. Account for sub-ideal terrain settings- Especially if you are playing in a tournament where you are not a regular. You'll find that differences in terrain make-up can differ based on the organizer, store, or geographic locale. Deploying a tournament list in your accustomed scenery style and geometry can be stressed for different situations.
  • 3. Where two or more units are available for deployment, select the more flexible unit to deploy first- this allows for the most tactical flexibility during the game.
  • 4. ALWAYS clarify terrain types before a game- this will help prevent arguments and oversights during the battle.
  • 5. Know thy opponent! Understanding whether your opponent would rather grind it out in a ranged shooting contest, try to outmaneuver you, or needs to bum rush you to be effective is a key concept to keep in mind during deployment (not to mention list building). Eldar armies in particular reward aggressive behavior, but not foolish behavior! Know when to deploy for blitz, counter, or fire trap, and a good portion of this depends on what army you are facing.
Well…I'm just about tapped out for this article. I hope you've enjoyed reading it!

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