Friday, January 28, 2011

WHFB: Deployment Tactics Part 3

The final installment in this series is a deployment method that is used primarily with shooty armies with a large amount of war machines.  A tradition straight across the board deployment for a gunline/shooty is begging to be smashed by the Strong Flank deployment, so clearly there has to be a better way.  This deployment method, like the others I've detailed utilizes fast cavalry with vanguard moves to create the tactical situations it needs for success.  Guess what that means for Dwarves?  

The best army to use with this particular deployment is Empire, because they have the shooting, decent close combat counter charge units, and excellent Pistoliers to conduct the fast cavalry operation.  But it's practical with almost any shooty army besides Dwarves.

So what is it?  It is the Strong Wings deployment as pictured below.

Strong Wings.  Welcome to the gunshow.

You put your artillery/shootiness on the wings with your close combat unit sandwiched between them.  These fighty units don't advance, they just sit and wait for the enemy to approach and then they saunter out to kill whatever stragglers make it to your line.  

Your fast cavalry deploy in the center of your lines and vanguard out to occupy the middle of the field.  Their job is to stand about 7"-8" away from the enemy fighty units and shoot at them with pistols, throwing axes, bows, etc.  When the enemy declares a charge at them, they flee and fall back out of range.  The enemy fails a charge, moves forward a scant 4" inches and is done for the turn.  On your turn, your fast cav rally.  Your artillery shoots the hell out of their fighty units and then you repeat again.  Your opponent will get frustrated when he realizes that his units are moving across the board at about 4 inches a turn, getting blasted the whole time.  Eventually you will fail to rally your Fast Cav or they will get caught or they will get magicked or shot.  That's when the fighty body guard will take on the (hopefully) shot to pieces enemy units that managed to cross the field.  That's the theory, in practice as we all know, it's never that easy.

The goal of this deployment, if it can only achieve one thing, is to prevent the enemy from marching for a turn.  If the enemy fighty units can march for one or two turns, they will be in your deployment zone quickly.  If your fast cavalry can bait them into making a failed charge or two, that slows them down by at least a turn.  The difference between the huge block of Chaos Warriors marching 8" vs. moving 3" due to a failed charge is enormous.  As we all know from playing 40k shooting armies: buying your army an extra turn of shooting before the CC starts is hugely important, and this is just as true for Fantasy shooting armies, if not more so.

Lastly, it helps to have a BSB inside one of your interior shooting wing units.  This will help ensure your fast cavalry are able to rally after their flee reaction, and thus able to continue their blocking/redirection job.

So the other side of the coin, how to beat this?  A strong flank deployment helps, because at least some of their shooting and fighty units should be at least initially marginalized from the battle.  Second, don't charge their fast cavalry.  March your units 1" away from them and park.  Their cavalry will have to move backwards on their turn, which in turn allows you to march again on your turn, or they will stay put and only be 1" away next turn when you charge, and that makes it much riskier that they will be caught with a bad flee distance roll.  Plus, if they are 1" away, they are likely granting your unit cover of some kind from some of the shooting, which is always good.
Your own shooting units and fast cavalry should be focused on killing theirs.  Since charges and reactions are declared first, use your cavalry to charge their fast cav.  If they stand, they will fight and die.  If they flee from your cavalry, your fighty units are free to march unimpeded.

One thing I want to mention as I wrap this series up, is the importance of fast cavalry or some kind of scout unit.  All of these deployment strategies hinge on the effective use of Vanguard moves or forward placed scout units in order to put your opponent into situations where he is damned if he does, and damned if it doesn't.  I hope, at least, that this has helped people see the tactical possibilities of fast cavalry in Fantasy and what doors it opens for your army.  So if you take nothing else away from this series, please take into consideration the awesomeness of vanguard and scout units. 


  1. "take into consideration the awesomeness of vanguard and scout units"

    I've seen so many players go points-for-points comparisons with units, talking about stats, special rules, etc. and it usually breaks down to whether the unit in question can "bring home its points" by destroying stuff. In genereal, this just fails for fast cav. They don't "kill" their share of points, they do it in a different manner. Very very important to understand this.

  2. Very true. Check out the battle report I'm posting tomorrow morning.

    My Shades did nothing of importance, damage-wise. But they did distract a Chaos Warshrine away from the main combat long enough for me to win the main combat. Who knows if I would have won had that Warshrine not been held up by the Shades. So the Shades "earned" no points, but provided a tactical advantage that allowed the rest of my army to triumph.

  3. Any thoughts on pistoliers versus outriders? It seems like pistoliers are better to perform the role you talk about here. How would you/would you bother using outriders?

    Also, any suggestions for a good place to read Empire-centric stuff? You do a really good job of explaining your thoughts but it would be nice to have to do less gymnastics to apply your reasoning to my army.

    Really like your blog. The other day I read every post you've written and it was informative and entertaining, thanks!

  4. Pistoliers are definitely preferable to Outriders. They are more or less just as good against warmachines, and they are better at harassment.

    I don't really know any blogs with Empire-centric content. There are probably some out there, but I'm guessing they are more hobby-based rather than deep tactical thoughts.

    My advice would be to read whatever you can get, even if it's warseer or dakkadakka. As you see from my Warseer blog posts, someone in the threads usually posts the right answer. The key is knowing how to separate the bull shit from the good stuff. The ability to do that comes down to knowing solid basic tactics like I talk about, and playing enough with your army to know which units are capable of doing what.

    Once you know those two things you should be a good BS detector and you can actually get something out of the forums.