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Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To: Breaking Bubble-wrap

A common defense against assaults and close-ranged weapons such as meltaguns is the bubble-wrap. This is where infantry protect more important targets, whether they are tanks, weak in combat, counter-assault units, whatever, by placing themselves in front of said units. Correct placement forces opponent's a set distance away from these protected units (i.e. out of melta range) and stops assaults on these units by either being in the direct path of the assaulting units and  too far away for a multi-assault/no gaps between bases. Any unit can do this but there are some armies such as Tau, Tyranids and Imperial Guard which have units acting as dedicated bubble-wrap. This helps their army function at its peak capacity for as long as possible and dictate gameplay as much as possible (shoot more for longer in the case of Tau and Imperial Guard and counter-assault for Tyranids).

We've discussed this a lot on this blog and the benefits of using it. The question now is, how do we break it? There are several options: shooting, assault, multiple singular tank shocks or a combined tank shock wedge. We'll look at each scenario.

1 - Shooting

This is the most basic of answers. Infantry are out of their transport? Shoot them dead. The problem here is dedicated bubble-wrap units are often quite large and thus can maintain a wrap for a long period of time (hello combined platoons!). They can also be quite durable through sheer weight of numbers or benefits to cover saves such as Kroot in forests or Imperial Guardsmen with a Stealth Pants Commissar + Incoming! order. It works over time, especially if you can bring flame templates and barrages to bear but isn't exactly efficient.

2 - Assault

This is another very basic answer and one that doesn't really solve the problem - you army has still been delayed. For armies like Tau, assaulting their bubble-wrap is what they want. You'll kill it and be left standing there for another turn as they shoot you. And there's another layer after that, etc. You can of course try to drag bubble-wraps with assaults away from what they are protecting (we'll cover this in a Back-to-Basics article) but the opponent can often move those units behind the combat or simply away. In the end, assaulting isn't remove the bubble-wrap when you need to remove it and thus the bubble-wrap is doing its job, even if you kill it.

3 - Singular Tank shocks

When you send a tank at an infantry unit, it has the chance to run away. Thanks tank shocks! If you send lots of tanks at an infantry unit, it has a much greater chance of running away. We looked at this recently but against bubble-wrap it's particularly important. For one, if the bubble-wrap layer is too far from what they are protecting, you can tank shock through the layer and deploy between it and the defensive stuff like so.

Bad bubble-wrap so the LRC can simply drive over the unit, disgorge Terminators and Vulkan, and assault everything in sight.
This isn't viable if the bubble-wrap is done correctly as the unit wraps around the tank. Before I show you this picture let's remind ourselves of the rules for moving units which end up under the moving tank. They must move the SHORTEST possible distance whilst MAINTAINING coherency. Sometimes this means models can move a very long way as we shall later. Anyway, here's what happens when a single tank tank shocks a properly set up bubble-wrap.

Note the bubble-wrap unit is sitting in cover. Backfield bubble-wrap units such as Kroot and combined Platoons are going to make sure you tank shock through terrain. 1/6 chance of automatically passing tank shocks is pretty nice.
These models need to be moved thanks to that huge tank in the way!
The models under the tank were moved the shortest possible distance whilst maintaining coherency and end up blocking the exits. Nothing can get out. We are trapped.
As we can see, when the bubble-wrap is set up correctly, the tank cannot simply move through it and unless the unit fails its leadership test (impossible here as they are fearless), the bubble-wrap is again doing its job and protecting more fragile units. Edit: I've made a mistake here as the Termagants aren't in coherency - some of them would have ended up behind the Hive Guard to ensure this was correct. Sorry.

You'll notice the Hive Guard are exposed here though and this comes into play when you tank shock with multiple tanks together.

If the unit runs away however, you're in the clear! If the tank is a transport the unit can then hop out, shoot things and potentially assault. This depends on the unit failing it's leadership however so isn't super reliable and does offer up more chances to immobilise the tank and death or glory attacks.

4 - Combined Tank Shocks

Here's where you can actively break bubble-wraps. Multiple tank shocks at a particular point. In this case we have two Land Raiders aiming at Hive Guard and a Tervigon. The goal of course is to move the screening unit out of the way but leave space between the tanks so Terminators can hop out and assault. This can be done with Rhinos/Razorbacks to open up fire lanes to particular targets as well (see Tri-Rhino).

First we start with the same scenario as before but with two Land Raiders instead of one.

Both Land Raiders are 12" away from the Hive Guard so this will be their target.

The first Raider moves in a straight line and we need to move all the little guys and a couple Hive Guard underneath the big green tank. End result looks like this...

Still can't get out and assault so we need to bring in the second Land Raider.

It rotates to move in a 12" straight line and we get more models which need to be moved. However, since the other Land Raider is already there, the Termagants cannot block the hatches between the two Land Raiders. There's enough room for 40mm based models but not enough room for unfriendly models which need to stay 1" away from both Land Raiders. After these models are moved from under the 2nd big green tank we get...

Everything is still maintaining coherency and was moved the shortest distance to ensure this. The Termagants have been cleared away from the Hive Guard/Tervigon like before.

Unlike before, there is a place to deploy the Terminators thanks to the two separate chassis. This leaves us space to deploy the Terminators (it looks tight on Vassal but it can be done) whilst within 2" of the doors and 1" away from all the Tyranids. We also have a perfectly 40mm shaped gap between our two Land Raiders pointing right at...the Hive Guard. And thus the bubble-wrap has been neutralised and the units it was protecting damaged in the same turn.

This is the most effective way to break bubble-wraps and is obviously very important for units such as double Raider lists or any list with a big rock/heavy assaulters. You don't need to do this with just Land Raiders of course. A Rhino can take the place of either Land Raider just as easily or again, no Land Raiders can be used at all. Of course here we'd be looking to shoot so would not leave assaulting gaps between the Rhinos and would be looking to alpha-strike a unit/tank to death. What's important in these cases is also knowing where your access hatches are. Wave Serpents and Chimeras for example only have rear hatches so you need to ensure the wrap around unit doesn't block those exists. Vehicles with side hatches have a huge advantage here as it's natural to get that space between the two tanks this way.


Bubble-wraps are excellent - there are few reliable ways to beat through them quickly whilst in the same turn engaging the units they are protecting. Tank shocking with multiple tanks is the best way to do this and whilst it can allow units to shoot or assault a particular target, units which carry meltaguns and the like can certainly discourage this. When you can pull this off however, the bubble-wrap unit is moved aside and the unit behind becomes vulnerable.

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