Path of the Autarch: Mobility [Part Two]
Weathering the Storm of Fire
Last time, we discussed a brief synopsis of the new beneficial rules of 6th Ed. for mobile armies.
Now, how do we leverage these against the enemy? Over the course of discussion, I may mention units but I don't want to get into too many specifics. This isn't an article series about list building, it is an article series about a thought process on how to use your list (or at least the more mobile elements of it).
At the beginning of the game, one of two things will happen. Either you will deploy first or your opponent will. These are immutable facts of the game. What is not immutable is whether the person who deploys first will take the first turn.
Mobile armies are at their most vulnerable before their first turn. Movement is the sword and shield of a mobile army but before the first turn, the shield is neither raised nor is sword unsheathed. Having the enemy blast your army with a blistering storm of fire when your army is at its weakest can be devastating. This threat is always there. Since it is a 50/50 shot whether you will get the first turn and even then the Initiative can be seized which means that we must always try to mitigate the possible incoming storm of fire.
The mobile army is at its most vulnerable during this time and there is always a chance the enemy will fire first, therefore the initial goal of the general in command must be to survive long enough to get a turn and, in addition, take as few casualties as possible in order to have sufficient forces left when that turn comes around in order to accomplish the battlefield's demands.
What do we need to know about the enemy's army before we lay our first model onto the table?
What weapons do they have that can harm us during the first turn? We're looking for the obvious like high strength, long range weapons that threaten our vehicles, or are there long range blast weapons that would bring us harm? Or anything else that may be tricky or particularly nasty to the particular mobile elements of our force.
If there are blasts, be they large or small? Since blast templates are full strength all the time in 6th, we want to make sure that our units are spaced out enough to make sure two units cannot get hit at once, especially vehicles. It seems so simple to do this and yet I see multiple vehicles getting hit on turn one all too often. If you have to, lay a blast template on the board and use that to space out your tanks, using the appropriate sized based on your knowledge of the enemy's weaponry.
Another question would be, are there Barrage weapons? If so, are there multiple level ruins to protect our infantry with an overhead roof? Or if it's a big ruin, can we turn it into a car port?
Taking the Field:
Now that we have done our recon on the enemy's forces. We move to the two scenarios.
Scenario 1: Storm Watch (we deploy first)
We've won the roll off and decided to go first or the enemy has forced us to go first. Either way, we now take the field blindly. We don't know what the enemy battle lines will look like, merely their contents. We can, however, make educated guesses about likely enemy positions. Odds are good that long range units will be deployed in terrain with good lanes of fire and bonus cover saves. This seems obvious but it is worth thinking about every time. Since we will be deploying with the expressed goal of surviving the enemy shooting at us before we get to move, we can use these forecasts to decrease our first turn casualties. For example, we can infer that the opponent's Devastators/Long Fangs/Anti-tank equivalent unit will likely go in the obviously best place for them, therefore we position their most likely targets out of line of sight or barring that, with the best cover save available in between. You have to play the game with your opponent that if they want the best positions for their units, they will have the most difficult time accomplishing their goals. Hopefully, we will also go first and most of the time, this will be true. Most of the time isn't all the time and since this is our most vulnerable moment, we can take no chances.
Scenario 2: Storm Warning (we deploy second)
Odds are, the storm is imminent. 5/6 of the time (unless you have cute little tricks) the storm is coming and we need to be ready.
So here is what is most likely going to happen. The opponent is going to light us up like the Chinese New Year on turn one, we get a turn and then the opponent is going to get another go at it, this time with the possibility of reinforcements (generally pronounced "flyers").
Knowing this, what are we to do? Well, the plan is going to be similar to Scenario 1. We are going to make sure that to the best of our ability, everything is either going to be out of line of sight of their most potent weapons or at least getting the best cover saves available to them. This is easier in this scenario because we know exactly where the opponent has set up.
There is another major factor in our deployment that must also be considered in this scenario much more than the first one. Setting up for the counter attack. Since we only get one turn before the opponent can fire on us the second time, we need to have a plan on how to make that second volley as impotent as possible.
By now, due to your recon, you know what the immediate threats will be, and since we deploy second, we know where those threats are lurking. The opponent's powerful weapons are our main targets. If I have many tanks, I will ignore the small arms fire like Bolters, Shootas, Lasguns, soft blob units, etc. I'm hunting Lascannons, Missile Launchers, pockets of AutoCannons, Dark Lances, enemy battle tanks, and other heavy weapons. My goal is to kill, pin (or make go to ground), stun, make fall back, or diminish anything that is going to make Turn 2 as bad or worse than Turn 1.
With this in mind, We are going to position our units such that they meet two criteria:
1) They have the best cover save available against the opponent's best weapons (no LOS is the best cover, by the way)
2) If they are still mission capable on our first turn, they are poised to strike at the most dangerous parts of the opponent's army. This is also in preparation for the odd chance that we will seize the initiative.
Remember, please utilize 6th Edition's pre-measuring for the purposes of fulfilling the two criteria.
If the opponent's weapons are too severe, the danger too great, or the terrain too scarce, we can also Reserve some of our long range weaponry to ensure we at least get one shot with it. Though this comes with its own risks and drawbacks and only you can know if this is the correct course of action. You may even be reserving units already for deep striking, outflanking, etc. Just beware of having too little on the table initially. This runs the risk of making your subsequent turns less effective.
Now that the basics have been laid out, what is your mental process for setting up your forces? I would love to hear other generals' pre-battle logic.
Next Path of the Autarch, The Surgical Strike.