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Friday, July 15, 2011

Art of Reserves: Part 2

Fritz 40k

Last article we looked at the impact reserving has upon a game from an army-wide perspective. We noted that this was quite uncommon and was generally used in extreme cases or against armies which were built around a full-reserve tactic. This time around we are going to look at the individual deployment types and how this impacts reserves and reserving only a couple of units, specifically ones that can enter the board in unique means such as outflanking and deep-striking.

We'll start with this latter concept. As we discussed in the previous article, reserving your whole army is sort of putting your whole strategy into one bag. Your reserving tactic will either succeed or it won't and there's not much you can do about it if it fails but your opponent can still react and counter your moves if it succeeds. It certainly isn't going to auto-win you games but it can auto-lose them. This is why you only see it in extreme situations. Individual units however? Well this is much more common.

Individual Units Reserving

The first reason you often reserve individual units is the exact same reasoning as to reserving your whole army - durability. If you're going 2nd and said unit is a very valuable asset to your army with impressive offensive capacity and perhaps not too great durability (i.e. glass cannon), reserving these units allows them to come on from your board edge and impact the game at least once. Great examples of such are Manticores, Vendettas, Fire Prisms, Ravagers, Storm Ravens etc. All of them have the speed/range once they come in to immediately impact the game and have a lot of firepower at their disposal. If they cannot do this (hello Vindicators) reserving them isn't really going to help. To your opponent they would be ideal targets to try and shake/destroy early on and you are denying them this opportunity. Armies which can do this effectively will often have a reserve bonus to bring these units on as they want to come on ASAP and impact the game. The downside of doing this is of course the unit gets delayed and you lose that firepower for quite a bit of the game.

If you have too many of these units you need to consider leaving them all on the table for saturation, reserving your whole army or looking at your list and seeing if you can't tweak it. Some armies, such as Dark Eldar, will always have this issue so using full saturation or full reserves if often a better tactic. This type of reserving can be expanded to objective holder units. Cheap objective holders such as three Guardian Jet Bikes, six Fire Warriors, three Acolytes, etc. can be placed in reserve with the hope that they come on later in the game or are easy enough to hide that your opponent cannot access them. Stick them on an objective and you've got a cheap scoring unit which has been hiding for part of the game in reserve and cannot be shot.

On the other hand, we have units which want to reserve not for durability and then alpha-striking but for the ability to disrupt the opponent through unique deployments combined with an alpha-strike of their own. They don't necessarily have to be weak units but can rather take advantage of their unique deployment rules to harass the opponent and disrupt their plans. They don't even have to deploy this way, your opponent knowing they do this is often enough to alter their plans. Let's look at each deployment type:

Deep-striking - this is the most unreliable of them all but allows you to deploy anywhere on the battlefield (within reason). The problem of course is scattering and the ensuing mishaps. Units which can ignore this such as Drop Pods, mycetic spores, Mawlocs, etc. or units which can reduce this such as Descent of Angels, Servo Skulls, Legion of the Damned, Stormtroopers etc. are obviously going to be much more reliable and better at this than others. By reserving a couple of these units you offer your army the ability to quickly get across the field with particular weapons, most notably anti-tank weapons such as meltaguns, and hurt the opponent's backfield. Playing against an opposing list and knowing that on T2/3 they are likely to have a unit come down in your backfield which can blow up a tank can cause the controlling player to leave unessential units behind to mitigate this.

You can also deep-strike these sorts of units into midfield to add support to your army but due to their scatter it can be very hard to get side/rear shots on enemy tanks and effective anti-infantry (i.e. templates) isn't always reliable with that scatter in mind.

Outflanking/Behind Enemy Lines - Again this is very similar to use of deep-striking but comes in from set locations - the board edges. Being able to come on from your opponent's long edge is much better than the short edges as you are less likely to fall victim to a refused flank but if you have re-rolls or are only using a couple of units to outflank, these deployment type can be very valuable. Once again, the units generally bring anti-tank to the table to destroy backfield tanks but importantly can also assault on the turn they arrive so things such as Krak Grenades and Melta-bombs can hurt stationary tanks but they can also engage backfield infantry and tie them up in combat (or even beat them in combat). This will often lead an opponent to blocking off their table edges with tanks and sacrificial units to engage in combat which limits their forward mobility and firing lanes. Sounds good to me.

Other outflanking units such as Vendettas, Baal Predators, Al'Rahem platoons, etc. bring firepower to the table which can access side armor relatively easy - the ultimate in flanking/cornering. This is especially useful on armies which look to hide things (artillery, indirect fire units, etc.) or have weaker side armor. By attacking them from multiple angles you generate more pressure on your opponent and will find it easier to destroy such units.

Pop-ups - These type of units aren't exactly common and the most famous of them is probably the Lictor or Callidus assassin. Anytime, anywhere. The great thing about these units is they can literally come in anywhere. Whilst most of them aren't amazing powerful currently, being able to get shots off in any location on the map (i.e. rear armor) is of great use and very hard to stop by your opponent.

What all of these units allow you to do is apply your offensive potential in different ways across the battlefield and most specifically, from an angle your opponent doesn't normally have to deal with. Backfields are generally quite secure from enemy models in the early stages of the game but with these types of units in play, some sort of defense often has to be left in place. The ability to alpha-strike from reserve and different directions whilst also getting ideal shots (i.e. side/rear armor) and tying units up in combat makes these guys a great choice to reserve and disrupt your opponent. Even just by having the unit in your army, your opponent can react to them assuming they will be in reserve and you can use this reaction to your advantage.

This is the most common form of using reserves. A couple of units to apply offensive whilst also acting as disruption. They are often quite cheap and won't last long but your opponent will be forced to think about them and react to them.

Deployment Types

We're now going to look at the individual deployment types and see if they impact reserves at all. We'll start with Dawn of War.

Dawn of War -

This is the one mission which sees the least reserving and should really only come from units which can deploy uniquely as discussed above. Why? Everything comes on the long table edge T1 and night fight is in effect. This means the early turn is often lost completely and little fire is exchanged. You can still reserve fragile units if going 2nd to ensure they don't get knocked out on Turn 2 but whole army reserves are very rare as night fighting nullifies the most common instances of this.

Pitched Battle -

The neutral deployment in all respects, this is where you're going to see all the reserves we've discussed. Shooty armies going first will often see armies reserve against them to alpha-strike and avoid being shot heavily early whilst reserving just a couple of units for durability is also an option. Using reserves with unique deployments is also going to have full benefits and disruption potential.

Spearhead -

With spearhead we get a unique conundrum. Reserving your whole army here or more units is quite common due to the deployment zone and the whole long table edge allowing reserves to come in. What this means is when deploying your whole army is off to one side of the board but when reserving, you can come in across the whole long table edge. For assault armies against shooting armies, this can minimise the distance you need to travel significantly whilst also reducing the impact of that first turn. Even for other armies who might be more midfield oriented, this might be a more beneficial strategy than deploying on the table against extreme ranged armies. Reserving units for durability has more application as you have greater freedom of deployment from the long table edge and even deploying a couple of units for disruption purposes from the long table edge has its merits. Unique deployments are of course, useful as ever though outflanking against a deployed army will see less use here. Due to the nature of the deployment zone it is easier for an opponent to block off more of their short table edge and reduce the advantage the outflanking units have. Units which come in on the wrong side also have a long way to travel.


And thus we have reserves. Each deployment type obviously affects the effectiveness of individual reserving tactics but each of those concepts can be used at anytime. Remember, whole army reserving is rare and only used in often extreme circumstances but reserving individual units for durability/counter alpha-striking, objective grabs or offensive disruption is much more common and often a better use of the reserve rules.

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