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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back-to-Basics: Moving heavy weapons on in Dawn of War

During my recent game with Taak I noticed he had an issue during his deployment. Dawn of War is a very particular and annoying type of deployment for many armies. Hordes and assault armies love it, especially if they deploy first as they can advance really far upfield. Shooting armies hate it as they basically lose a turn of shooting between the combination of night fight and moving on from the board edge during first turn. What this post is going to look at is how you move on a specific type of unit: foot heavy weapons.

Infantry without the relentless rule and armed with heavy weapons particularly hate Dawn of War. They most often can only move 6" + run D6" so don't get to pick the most advantageous spot for controlling the board and lose a turn of shooting (though night fight affects this as well). It can become difficult for players to appropriately choose their positions with their heavy weapon infantry. There are two major things you should consider when moving your foot heavy weapons onto the board in Dawn of War: fields of fire and line of sight. Both are related but both are different.

Line of sight is obviously what you can see. The more you can see, the better. Fields of fire is about where your heavy weapons are going to cause the most damage. You may be able to see the whole board but their only open terrain is on the opposite side of the board where they can't reach your opponent. Your opponent can then move across the battlefield with cover on hand at all times. Sometimes it's hard to get good fields of fire and your opponent will get cover, this is part in parcel of taking foot heavy weapons and one you should of considered when designing your list.

From there you have the obvious things you need to consider. Where is your opponent (don't deploy out of range if they have deployed first...please) or where are they likely to be? This is where fields of fire comes in particular importance as where you end up moving your heavy weapons to can dictate how they play. What are the mission winning conditions? If objectives play an important role, ensuring your heavy weapons have a good field of fire or at the bare minimum, line of sight, to as many objectives as possible is obviously very important. Finally consider defenses. Do your opponent have a lot of ranged AP weapons which are going to power through your armor or can your heavy weapons hang out in the open and thus increase their field of fire? Another consideration is do they have a transport dedicated to them or which they can hijack? If so this opens up a lot more possibilities in terms of where and how you can place them most effectively. Remember though, don't rely on the run roll to get you into a good firing position. If your heavy weapons are out of line of sight to most of the board and only need a 2" run roll to get into a good firing position, you're going to be in a world of hurt when you roll that 1. Consider the run move a bonus which allows you to readjust your models so they are setup correctly rather than an extra distance to be covered to get them into an appropriate firing position. Also remember, if you need to sacrifice two turns of shooting (T1 and T2) to get into a very dominating firing position, do so. But make sure the rest of your force is capable of impacting the opponent as much as possible (or minimising your opponent's impact on you).

So we're going to take a practical example here from my game against Taak. It was DoW deployment with winning conditions in the following order: Table Quarters, Objectives, chosen KP, Victory Points and I was playing a Tyranid list and he was playing Razorwolves. The obvious implication relating to this article is the Space Wolf Long Fangs who won't be able to fire on T1 and have Razorback transports (more details on the battle can be found in the Battle Report to be published later).

Taak had three Long Fang squads and two of them were able to deploy into ruins which gave them cover, advantageous height, good fields of fire and LoS to pretty much the whole board except for terrain pieces which blocked LoS. His third squad however wouldn't be able to reach the same type of cover in a different section of the board. If they had he'd of had very good overlapping firepower across the board but as it was, Taak spent two turns positioning them and by that time my army was in his face. So he had a few options he could of done with this third LF squad.

Option 1: Deploy them in the open

Against Tyranids without Zoanthropes, cover means very little. Sure most models don't have frag grenades/lashwhips so you get to strike first but for a small squad of heavy weapons? Deploying them in the open is a much better alternative as you get an extra turn of firing and should have excellent fields of fire but LoS may be hindered. Either way getting that overlapping firepower is important as it means the opposing army cannot hide as a whole. In this instance it would of meant four more instant death missiles flying at the Tyranid raveners which would of greatly reduced the impact they had in the game.

Option 2: Deploy them via their Razorbacks

In this picture we can see this is exactly what has happened. The Long Fangs are 10" on from the board edge having been transported by their Razorback and then running up the ruins (lucky them). Whilst this is possible if they had walked on from the board edge the combination of difficult terrain and a high run roll may have left them further back in the ruins which would of limited their line of sight.

The main issue with this deployment specifically is the LoS is blocked to the right of the Marines. This won't always be the case but deploying like this does get dictated some-what by terrain. Not really an 'issue' but something to be considered.

Option 3: Self-block

This combines options 1 & 2 and deploys the heavy weapon teams in the open and uses tanks to protect them. We've discussed this tactic before here but generally in an aggressive manner. One of the main disadvantage of options one and two is exposure to enemy assaults and fire. Deploying them in the open and further upfield means they are more susceptible to enemy units crashing through your lines and punching them in the face. By using tanks to protect yourself you can maintain clear fields of fire, not rely on terrain for cover/defenses and protect yourself from assaults.

A main advantage of this option is you can move the tanks around to change the fields of fire to ensure maximum protection and maximum fire potential. However, the tanks are obviously a key component of the defense and if offensive in nature (i.e. Razorbacks) can be high priority targets as well. If these are gone the squad protected by the tanks can become highly exposed.

Here are some pictures to illustrate.

As you can see the vehicles allow the line of sight and fields of fire of the foot models to 'pivot' whilst still providing protection. This option is best used when there is no good cover to easily walk or drive the unit to. It doesn't rely on run rolls so is reliable and gets the foot squad into firing position from the get-go.

In the game between Taak and I, his third Long Fang squad really should of used option three. Option two was also viable as long as they were deployed too far forward. By attempting to get the Long Fangs into the ruins he took two turns to actually get them into a firing position when they could of been in a firing position from T1. The other Long Fangs could of also used option three to stay protected but used option two + good run rolls to get into ruins and elevated.


Whilst option 3 may have the best of both worlds, it's not always the right choice. If you can move your foot heavy weapons straight into good firing positions without a reliance on a good run roll (either walking on or using a transport), go for it. Remember, option three is requiring the use of two tanks + the actual unit so isn't exactly hyper efficient and if the tanks go down, the unit is very exposed.

In the end getting the best out of your foot heavy weapons in Dawn of War requires you to understand how quickly you need the firepower (if your opponent has reserved for example, you've got an extra turn!) and where it will be the most beneficial depending upon what the winning conditions are, your opponent's army and firepower compared to your units, fields of fire and line of sight. Combining all these elements and examining the battlefield should give you a better idea in which option to use, including walking them on and into terrain (subtraction of Option 2).

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