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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How To: Providing Cover to Vehicles & Units (self-blocking)

Self-blocking? What the hell is he on about? I should really stop with rhetorics... anyway, this post is basically about moving your army around and generating cover. This should be pretty easy with infantry, you just stick half in cover or half behind another unit. Cover. Next! Vehicles is a bit more difficult as you need room to move and have to cover 50% of multiple facings. Much more difficult. You want to ensure your highest AV is generally attracting the most attention and you need to account for your opponent's movement, etc. etc. This obviously takes more work and we've covered it very briefly before but we'll go more in-depth here. And we need to answer this e-mailer's questions!

"Hi Kirby, a friend and I are heading to the 40k Doubles Tournament at Warhammer World next February, taking vanilla Marines (myself) and Space Wolves (my teammate). VT2 has already given me great advice on the list, so that's not what I'm asking here. Neither of us are incredibly experienced players, and I want to get down the most effective way of moving our stuff across the board. We have a unit of Blood Claws in a Drop Pod as an intial disruption unit, as well as a lone MM/HF Landspeeder (we had to have 1 Fast Attack choice lol) which will be moving straight forward. After that there's a small unit of Sternguard with combi-meltas and heavy flamers, with my Libby hitching a ride, and we'd envisaged these guys moving straight forward with a 10 man dual-melta Grey Hunter squad in a Rhino, trying to pop open transports and flame whoever is inside. 

The rest of the army is a Rhino based Tac squad with flamer and MM as a bunker, two LasPlas Rbacks with small Grey Hunter squads, and two AC/HB Preds. It's this portion I'm really asking about (I've included the rest in case there's any glaring mistakes we're making there) - given the composition, one Rhino, two LasPlas, and two Preds, how, physically, do we ideally move them across the board? I've not had a huge amount of games, so I've not had much chance to experiment with different formations. Last time I had a number of HB RBacks, two in front popped smoke initially to cover themselves and the two behind, which was fine until one was immobilised and I had to drive the one behind it all the way around. Setting them all up in a line seems potentially stupid. I'm sure with enough time and experience I'd figure out a decent way of doing it, but I wondered if you could give me a headstart? I want to keep everything as safe as possible, but also be able to maximise the firepower.

Thanks very much, Rich."

So I whipped out my models to take some example pics (even some tau!). Now this all depends on what type of army you're facing. Against an army with not much high strength anti-tank firepower (i.e. caps out around 7/8), you want to lead with your highest AV. Predators, Leman Russes, Land Raiders, etc. are all good examples here as it's very unlikely your opponent will be able to hurt those vehicles and they can provide cover to vehicles behind. However, these vehicles are generally also bigger and thus block LoS to the units behind them to a certain degree. Whilst this can be useful at times sometimes you need to advance whilst firing. Here is where mech-training really comes into play as you can gain cover on your vehicles but they can still shoot clearly via turrets.

Looks nice out...

Here we can see a Hive Guard can only clearly see the front Rhino which can be smoked to provide cover for the whole parking lot. The Land Speeder can also clearly be seen but we're going to assume it's moved fast and it's T1 (we're also ignoring the fact that it's a Hive Guard...but check out that paint job!). This allows the SM player to clearly fire the Dreads and Pred/RBack turrets and maintain movement. Now obviously if the Hive Guard moved about 12" to the left, he'd have clear shots at the Razorback and Dread but he can't move 12"... Here's a top-down view with some squiggles...

Squiggildy do and squiggildy dee...this must make sense to someone?

First of all, notice how there's room for the vehicles to pivot. A lot of people don't leave this room and when vehicles get stunned/immobed, you have to reverse to get out (ya Vince, not over your own tanks). Less of an issue when they are wrecked/exploded but it's very important to leave those little spaces so your parking lot doesn't become an actual parking lot. You'll also notice h ow vulnerable this setup is to anti-castling like the Manticore or Blood Lance; don't do this against them. So, again from the Hive Guard's perspective the smoked Rhino and SMF Speeder provide cover for everything and everything has clear LoS over the top of the hulls. Pretty nifty. However, the two red arrows indicate angles of attack which are going to provide clear LoS to side armor (which is doubly bad for the Pred). This is where this sort of castling falls apart as you are relying upon using minimal smoke to generate multiple levels of cover for the rest of your army. Against more mobile armies like BA, DE, Eldar you aren't going to be able to cover all angles of attack but against more normal speed or slow armies, you can 'point' the castle in the correct direction. 

Furthermore, if there is a large clump of terrain where one of the arrows is or terrain which could protect a Dreadnought or Marines (enough of them can provide cover to a Rhino chassis) which in turn provide cover to the tanks, you can limit this vulnerability to flanking and 'pivot' the castle appropriately. What's important here is presenting as high an AV front as possible to the majority of guns and presenting as much cover as possible whilst maintaining as many potential weapons as possible. In this case, moving the Preds too far forward will expose their side armor and minimise their shooting. If their HB aren't needed they can move in a flank position to get side shots of their own, etc.

Now the problem with this is my whole army is quite centralised and I'm sacrificing a lot of my mobility for increased durability. This is great if I need to hustle across the board (i.e. Immo spam or BA Flamestorm) or advance into midfield but the castle needs to be broken at some point or it might not even be wise to do this. The same principles work with fewer numbers however. Here we see... a Predator? (ignore the crap in the background).

Wtf are the two dreads doing?

But if we take another look...

I'm the caboose!

and we see a Razorback hiding. Here the Predator is effectively lending the RBack it's AV13 and although they are quite vulnerable to flanking, both are still capable of shooting effectively. Turning the Predator sideways would provide the RBack with more protection but expose it's side AV and thus a Rhino would be of better use here. This is how you protect vehicles in mid or backfield, especially if you can put a piece of terrain in front of the lead vehicle. Here's another example with a speeder blocking a Pred (very useful when a speeder is shaken for example).

I see you!

And a further example of a Dread using a RBack for cover whilst both being able to shoot. The beauty of this arrangement is both can move 6" and fire their main guns and basically advance into midfield together.

That's a big lascannon...

So whilst the parking lot is a great way to advance early midgame or take advantage of your high AV against some armies, it's uses are limited in practicality due to the mobility of the game. Again, against less mobile armies, moving at a stately 6" pace and swapping the lead vehicle around can work wonders for your tank survivability but you also limit your own mobility even if you can esplode the castle at any time (i.e. send tanks everywhere). Rather, using smaller pairings to provide each other with cover and taking advantage of the board can help you maintain your firepower as you advance and provide cover saves as you need them.

However, there are further uses for tank chassis and that is protecting infantry. We already discussed Marines protecting Rhinos (who are one of the few infantry units who can thanks to their build) but importantly, Mech quite often completely blocks LoS to infantry. I can therefore hide infantry units behind tanks except for special and heavy weapons, gaining cover and firing those weapons without ill effect. Alternatively I can hide behind a tank and force you to come and get me and move me off objectives. You have to go through a tank to do that so have fun! Although I don't have any pictures of this (see last blocking article), I do have a picture relating to Tau. I often talk about how Crisis Suits can hide behind Tau tanks to block LoS, well here you go. The Hive Guard is all confuzzled to where the Crisis Suits went (yes again, we are ignoring the HG rules).

Where is everyone?

There they are!

Here the Crisis suits are block from LoS as all can be seen are some antenna and gun barrels (not 'part' of the model according to the BRB). With their JSJ ability they can hide, shoot, jump back, rinse and repeat which greatly increases their survivability. This can also be done with units like Jetbikes but are a bit harder to hide. This same tactic can be used with tanks; hiding an infantry squad until it needs to shoot and then moving out of the way. The unit can then shoot/move freely and/or assault if desired. Although the tank cannot move back to protect the unit, using such tactics can prevent assaults, or weak units being torrented away (if only upgrades like Star Engines didn't screw up a Wave Serpent's shooting...).

So there you have it. A lot of thoughts to consider when moving you tanks and infantry around to try and gain the most advantage (i.e. cover) whilst still maintaining your firepower (i.e. not moving too fast) or exposing your flanks. Faster armies have a lot more options in this regard obviously but normal and slow armies can still operate in this sense. Hopefully that helps Rich out a bit as well! And as a bonus, you got to see my Marines and Tyranids again! And the worst of my half painted Tau...

P.S. the stupid picture comments stay. I'm bored and they made me giggle. I don't know why...

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