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Army Building and Deployment Tactica
Old 20 Oct 2008, 21:54   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Default Army Building and Deployment Tactica

This was originally a Blood Angels guide, but we've decided it applies to everyone, so it's been moved, edited and renamed. Enjoy!

What is it that makes a Blood Angels army powerful? It could be their units, sure. It could be their special rules. It could even be the psychological effect of your opponent not knowing what to expect from your army, or how to counter it. However, simply having a strong army is not enough to win. To win consistently requires that the player tie together all of the powerful aspects of their army and use it effectively in conjunction with their play style. This tactica is not necessarily meant to be a list of game-winning strategies and tactics. It is meant to help the Blood Angel player to identify with their army and to become a better player overall, because everything that you will read here can be applied to any army you play later in your gaming career.

The author is not an expert on the game of Warhammer 40,000, nor is he an expert on Blood Angels. He is experienced, however, with a few years of gaming and a couple of local tournaments under his belt. He has built a reputation with many of his armies after going for a solid year straight without a single victory. To be fair, though, I have learned so much from playing certain armies that I use in every game I play. I usually run four victories to every loss, although with my Blood Angels that has improved dramatically. In fact, I can scarcely recall my last loss with my Angels, though I gain more and more victories by the week. The main armies I have developed my tactics with are my Empire and my Tau, although every army Iíve played has had something to contribute. Without any further ado, I would like to welcome you to the rest of your life.

There are a lot of websites. Really, type in any letter on Google, and just look at how many results you get. Of those billions, maybe trillions of websites, there are a multitude aimed toward Warhammer and 40K gamers. Most of those sites have forums, and most of those forums will have tacticas. I do not intend to demean other authors, or to give my already sizeable ego a boost, but most of the things that people put into tactica articles are worthless. They present information that is either incorrect, or is so blatantly obvious that the only way players donít know it is if they been playing in a sheltered gaming club with only a few gamers whoíve never used/read about those armies. Even then, itís not a sure thing. However, there are some tacticas which are truly valuable. Those tacticas are usually written by veterans who have played for longer than most of us have been alive, and are not concerned with unit-by-unit powerbuilding, but are more focused on broad strategies and play styles. That is what this tactica is all about. There are other tacticas for the other aspects of Blood Angels.

So, how do you better yourself as a player? First of all, you need to play well in each and every part of the battle. Iím not just talking on the table, either. I know it seems obvious, but having a strong list will really help you towards ultimate victory on the battlefield. Now, Iím not saying you should go off and copy-paste the list that the highest-placing Blood Angel player in the most recent GT used, but put some thought into what youíre doing. More often than not I see players taking lists that capitalize on a certain element, say assault, or multi-wound models, and will ignore the rest of their army. While this is a perfectly valid strategy, it is very likely that youíll find a mismatch against certain armies. That is, you wonít be able to beat an opponent, simply because the army heís playing is, by its very nature, a direct counter to the army that youíre playing. Thatís no good. So, one thing that I offer up is that you ought to build a balanced list to play with. Again, the word Ďbalancedí means different things to different people. The way I use it in this case means that you should have a highly flexible army capable of meeting any threat, and capable of performing any role. That brings me to my first point about army list building.


There is nothing more important when building a list than redundancy. In life we tend to look at it as a bad thing, but in 40K itís the most important part of building an army. Letís say youíre attempting to build a balanced list, and you come to find that you need anti-tank firepower. So, naturally, you insert a squad of Devastators to fill the void. However, what if that squad were to take an assault from a troupe of Harlequins early on? You would find yourself in dire need of anti-tank firepower, which at this point you no longer have. So, whatís a guy to do? By ensuring that you have multiple units that can perform the same role when you build a list, youíve got yourself covered, should the worst happen. This is not to say that you should take two units of devastators per se, but I personally run a unit of devastators, two Dreadnoughts with Multi-Meltas and I have another marine with a normal Melta. Add to that the fact that Dreadnoughts are strength 10 in close combat, and you can clearly see the redundancy of my tank-hunting.

One important point about redundancy is that one unit can fill multiple roles. Just because your Dreadnought is so good at wiping out other vehicles doesnít mean that he canít still take out lightly-armed infantry with the best of Ďem. In fact, I personally do use Dreadnoughts in this way Ė they are my back-up anti-vehicle, as well as my tar pit/melee killa units. This ties into my next point.


Itís important that a unit be able to fill as many roles as possible, but not at the cost of losing efficiency. For instance, itís all well and good to have a Tactical squad fitted with loads of anti-infantry weaponry, but how much stronger could that unit be if it had the tank-killing power of a Melta behind it as well? You will find that I advocate the use of Meltas often throughout this tactica. I find that they are some of the most potent weapons in the game, offering both versatility and redundancy. This is not to say that they are always the best choice, but when in doubt, think Melta. I also believe Powerfists are incredibly worthwhile upgrades to all squad leaders for the same reasons. Death Company are the epitome of Versatility. They are equally capable of wiping out guard, marines, terminators, and even tanks on the charge. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there is nothing short of a Monolith or Land Raider that Death Company canít handle.

The one problem I normally see with people who attempt to be versatile is that they will spread themselves too thin amongst a unit, and will lose efficiency. Never have a unit take on more roles than it can reasonably be expected to fill. For instance, loading up a Devastator squad with a Heavy Bolter, a Lascannon, a Plasma Cannon and a Multi-Melta is unlikely to be effective. Instead focus on a primary role and a backup role for each squad if possible, similar to my Dreadnoughtsí abilities to not only bust tanks, but also to lay down the pain on normal/heavy infantry as well.

Once you have the concepts of Redundancy and Versatility in your list, you have but to work the list into a cohesive killing machine. The easiest way to do that is to examine your play style. This I will get to later. When youíve determined your particular style of play, itís all downhill from their. You must choose a combination of units that will work most easily with your style and still fulfill the requirements for a good army list. This means that sometimes you must work with models or units that do not fit your style, but thatís one of the hardships that every good player has to overcome. The best advice I can offer is to think for yourself when you reach this obstacle, the same thing will not work for everyone.

So how to determine your play style? Well, while there are no hard and fast rules to determine precisely how you play, mostly you must simply determine that for yourself after many games and many different army styles. I personally fall into the niche of the aggressive attacker, as established by my Tau army and honed by my Blood Angels army. I find that if I can control the pace of the game and force my opponent on the defensive, then Iíve already won.

So think about the habits you find yourself falling into when playing. Do you take a lot of risks, or do you carefully and methodically wipe out your opponentís army unit by unit? Do you tend to rush across the battlefield or stay put and wait for your opponent to come to you? Do you feel there is more power in Shooting or Assault? These are all things you should be aware of and putting together to determine just what you are. For me it took well over a year to determine my exact style of play. Of course, I had precious little help during that time, so I was not particularly looking at how I played as a determinate for how I should compose my army. I didnít think to play an army that fit me even, I simply went after the armies that I liked until I found the ones I was good at playing.

When you have the list in your hands at the end of the day, it comes time to determine how that list is going to be played. Ideally you should have a general tactic or strategy in mind when creating a list so that you can play to your listís advantages as much as possible. Thatís all Warhammer 40K is really, advantage. Whether it comes from having a strong army list or playing with sound tactics, or even just plain luck, victory comes to the person with the most advantage. In general, if youíve built an army list to work with your style of play, then you should be able to attain victory simply by playing the army by Ďfeelí. What I mean by Ďfeelí is that if you play in the way thatís most comfortable to you, as complemented by an army built to play the way you feel comfortable, youíre already gaining a considerable advantage. That is not to say that you wonít need to use a sound strategy to win the game, itís just that your army will deliver better results than one that is not meant to be played the way you feel comfortable. In my case, since I play a quick, aggressive Blood Angels army, my normal tactics will involve rushing weak points in my opponentís army or attacks around the flanks, only to sweep in for the final victory.

Then it comes down to battlefield tactics. Since I am writing this tactica for Blood Angels, and I assume a lot of Blood Angels players share my style of play (being that Blood Angels are essentially an assault-based army), I will write some of my own personal tactics in here.

My first tactic is a classic flank. Now, when I deploy my army, I generally like to deploy second. I know itís not always my choice, but I have about a 75% chance of getting to deploy second each game. Thereís a 50% chance that Iíll win the roll-off and get to choose, and if I lose the roll, then my opponent has to decide if he wants to go first or second, which is a 50-50 as well. So, assuming I deploy second I make it my first priority to scout out a weak flank. If there is one, then I will deploy the majority of my army on that flank, with a few rock-hard units to keep my opponent from sweeping the other (this task usually falls to my Dreadnoughts). Itís still important to have solid units on both of your flanks; otherwise youíll just end up chasing your opponent around and around and never accomplish anything. This is certainly a straightforward tactic, with the idea being that since youíre hitting one flank the other flank canít bring itself to bear before you strike, so your opponent has only a small portion of his army to react to almost all of yours. By the time they get to fight, itís already far too late and itís easy enough to simply steamroll them across the table.

If I cannot find a weak flank, then I look for weaker spots in the main battle line of my opponent. Units that canít move and fire, or particularly slow-moving units are my favorite prey. I understand that itís not usually possible to hit the weak points without having to strike the harder units in an opponentís army first, but a properly built force thatís played to best advantage should be able to take a couple of hits and still walk away with the prize. This is where the idea of redundancy plays a huge role Ė donít let your one unit thatís capable of dealing with whatever threat youíre trying to reach die, otherwise youíll never be able to take it out.

Assuming both of those fail, I go to my third plan of action. To be quite fair I donít like having to rely on this one, but on the other hand I very rarely have to. This is trying to create my own advantages. What Iíve got to do to get this one to work is different in almost all scenarios, so I canít give a very good rundown of what I do, but it usually involves that I hang back for a turn or two to size up my opponentís force before making a move that forces him to react. Usually this involves having to crack open a hole in his lines that is either difficult to plug or irreparable entirely. One of the ways Iíve done this before is to hit with a unit of Death Company to wipe out a particularly hard unit, and follow up with a vicious few turns of just opening the hole with charges from Assault and Tactical marines to try to pry the army open from the middle, forcing my opponent to fight without his units being able to support each other. Of course, I see this tactic as unreliable Ė I lose a lot of models in the process and the game will usually end in a draw.

Now, of course I have my own little tricks that I like to use in the mid-game. A lot are really just good 40K tips all around, some are Blood Angels specific.

1. Always charge with more units than you need. If somethingís worth killing, then itís worth going a little overkill to make sure it cracks on the turn you charge it. I hate letting combat drag on past the first round, it ends up leaving your units in a vulnerable position.
2. Give your opponent more threats than he can react to. There is nothing that gets inside your opponentís head more than having to make a lot of decisions in a short amount of time. If you overload him with immediate threats then heís bound to make mistakes. This is the secret to Tyranid success, and since it works so well, why not adapt it to other armies?
3. Donít make needless sacrifices. A unit for a unit is never a good tradeoff, especially for an army with as few units as Blood Angels. Instead, find ways around offering up sacrifices. Itís always worth it in the long run, even if it takes another turn or two to get the job done.
4. Cover will never, ever hurt you. Okay, maybe dangerous terrain will, but cover means so little to an army as pre-disposed to assaults as Blood Angels. You have Frag Grenades, so it doesnít matter if you charge through cover, and getting a cover save as you move towards your opponent is huge. It means all those nasty low-AP weapons will be much more insignificant, and probably a huge waste of points for your opponent. Even if being in cover just means your hiding your expensive Command Squad behind your cheap combat-squadded Tactical marines, cover is cover.
5. Never assume that your battle plan will survive contact with the enemy. Just because you started out hitting your opponentís weak points doesnít mean that he wonít open up his flank to you. In the same way, if he plugs the weak points in his line, you may have to adjust accordingly and make your own advantage!

Iím hoping that this little article has helped at least some of you out there. I know that this wasnít necessarily a Blood Angels article per se, as every player (even players from other systems!) can take advantage of these tips, but as this was aimed primarily at Blood Angels players, especially new ones, I feel that it deserves to be donated as a Blood Angels article. If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to post them here and Iíll do my best to respond to them all in turn. If anyone has suggestions, voice those as well and if need be, I will add on a part two! I certainly donít expect to have to, but anythingís possible, right? Anyone who wants a more Blood-Angels-specific Tactica need only ask, and if there is enough interest shown Iíll get to work on that, and maybe post something up on the Librarium board. Good luck, and may the Dice Gods cease to hate us all.

The soulless sentience is the enemy of all.

Mournus Skitarii 3rd Legion, the Will of Mourn

Kaffl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20 Oct 2008, 22:18   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Blood Angels tactica (applies to everyone though)

I really enjoyed reading your article and I must say it's good stuff.

I'm also a fan of outflanking my opponent, it's one of the most effective ways to beat them.

Very good read thankyou.
That Phyco Guy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22 Oct 2008, 09:33   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Blood Angels tactica (applies to everyone though)

Thankyou. This was lovely to read.
I don't play blood angels, but as you said, i did find the information quite useful and relevant.
I've never really thought about flanking all that much, preferring a balanced approach, or 2 pronged system.
But I think I may start to reconsider. Either way, it's nice to try new ideas.

lemon-green is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22 Oct 2008, 17:05   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Blood Angels tactica (applies to everyone though)

Great article Kaffl!

+1 Karma earned for you!

Lots of good general advice on some basic and highly efficient battlefield tactics. I know personally speaking a refused flank is one of my favorite strategies to use, since I typically employ fast and maneuverable armies. Mech tau and ravenwing. Leaving half the opponents force sitting on their hands while your whole army hits his other half is incredibly satisfying.

(I've moved this topic to General 40k and changed the title, I think it applies to everyone and wanted to share.)
Originally Posted by heliodorus04
Falstead, you're a genius!
Originally Posted by Farseer_Emlyn
Gah! Not a silly Canadian. Can't Falstead ever be wrong?!?!? ;D
Originally Posted by Rafe (Autarch Kiardras)
My god.... the sarcasm there nearly shorted out my computer screen Nice.
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