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Friday, November 26, 2010

How To: Midfield

Here’s a recent email...

“Hey Kirby,

I read so much about the midfield and it's importance, especially with SW. Since I'm pretty new to 5ed WH40k, I wonder if there are any tricks to advance into midfield and what to do once controlling it. If there are any deep thoughts about this specific topic, may-be you or one of your blog-fellows could write a little article about that. I would appreciate it :)


Explanation time! First off, let's explain midfield quickly; basically it's the point between two deployment zones and is often where the battle is fought in 5th edition due to the importance of mech (read: survivability). Mech allows armies to effectively push forward, not die a horrific explosion and then be exposed thanks to auto-pinning (i.e. 4th edition) and opponents need to be able to counter this. The easiest way to counter this is with a boring old gunline yet mech often trumps gunlines because it's just that hard to deal with so many tanks, you have no mobility to allow your defences to be super effective and are vulnerable to disruption tactics. What this means is you also need to go into midfield (or move laterally more sideshots; so no gunlines do not work shut up!) to stop mech with concepts such as blocking and to point blank melta them. Then 5th edition also improved combat armies by allowing them all to Run! (but restricting them from consolidating into combat) and giving pretty much everyone a 4+ cover save. Suddenly the age of 4th edition gunlines are over and you have a very mobile game and midfield gives your mobility the most options as you can go full speed in 360 degrees (compare to being on your board edge or in a corner). I hope I don't have to explain that little bit.

So what makes it important? Obviously having more tactical options in terms of mobility and being able to bring guns or assault units to bear is good but for 5th edition there is something extra. Objectives. Most objectives aren't in your deployment zone but rather between the two deployment zones and some objectives will be closer to your opponent compared to you. Even in the 5x5 system at most two objectives will be in your DZ and two in your opponents (unless Spearhead or opposite corner deployment), so you still need to move across the field to threaten/contest your opponent's objectives whilst also securing the middle objective and your own. This is just like in a BRB Seize Ground or C&C mission but ensures the objectives are spread evenly across the table and it's a lot harder to get draws (depending on whether you are simply playing 5 objectives or the W/L 5x5 system). Furthermore, objectives place extra emphasis on the mobility aspect of 5th edition and highlights the importance of moving across the field (it's a lot harder to wipe your opponent than contest objectives).

So...tricks. Not really, the majority of it is going to depend on army type and design as some armies are just better suited for midfield than others. Maintaining cover on your units as much as possible is obviously good (there will be another post on this with pictures! later) but a very important concept is suppression fire. Having the backfield or disruptive element of your army reduce the incoming damage your army as a whole receives simply by stopping other tanks from shooting is obviously important and the better your army can do this, well the better it functions (see Hybrid SW with Long Fangs and Razorbacks). Make sure your scoring units are on objectives so if they get tied in combat or their vehicle explodes they are locked/pinned on the objective and this means your opponent has to clear you off. This is an advantage for horde type armies as they can be harder to clear off though their general difficulty against Mech mitigates this (i.e. tank shocking, templates, combat, etc.).

It is important to stay as mobile as possible in midfield. Whilst getting locked in combat on an objective (especially if you arrange it so your unit is locked on the objective and the opponent is 3" away from it) is good, being able to stay mobile and move from objective to objective is better. Therefore locking up opponents in combat away from objectives with units is good to maintain your scoring mobility (a disadvantage of combat armies with Troops that are good in combat such as BA). This also ensures you maintain your midfield firepower. A Vulkan list for example is very good in midfield as all of it's weapons work at 24" or less and also has some very good combat units in Terminators whilst also remaining mobile. By using the Terminators to lock up units the firepower units which work very well at close range can continue to operate and control a large swathe of the board.

Remember though midfield gives your opponent more opportunities to engage you in combat (as noted above) and get side shots. You therefore need to protect against this (bubble-wrap or good combat units and angling vehicles/blocking side arcs, etc.) to maintain the advantage. However, pushing too deep into midfield or too early (particularly for lists like Tau/IG who have a strong backfield element) can cause you to overextend. This allows your enemy to get behind your midfield element and disrupt your backfield or hit your midfield from behind (no tank likes this!...). Whilst flank/rear charges don't have as obvious impacts as it does in Fantasy, it does negate some of your mobility and give the advantage to your opponent as they react (unless your forward element is able to push forward and hold their backfield).

I could go on but I think that covers some of the major elements. Basically staying as mobile as possible is key; movement (along with deployment) wins and loses mosts games. Anything anyone else can add or any specific questions are welcome!

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