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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Threat ranges - What are they?

I'm going to embark upon a couple of articles discussing threat ranges, specifically armies/units based around 24", asssaulting from stationary vehicles without assault ramps, meltaguns, etc. (if you want anything else discussed, let me know). Why? For a couple of reasons. One I see a lot of these concepts applied incorrectly or disparaged upon. For example, 24" range is apparently a huge limitation despite the fact that once the unit is in midfield, that unit can reach nearly the whole board with movement. Another example - meltavets being thrown forward to melta something and then dying a horrible death. We've already discussed this to a certain extent but more information can be provided. Etc. etc.

Hive Guard in the middle of the board with movement can nearly reach the entire board with their guns.

What this article is going to do is introduce the topic - a back to basics as it were of actually defining the term and its application. From what I've seen it's something discussed a lot more in Warmachine/Hordes where the ranges are much smaller, movement does have the speed of 40k (i.e. no 24" fast skimmers) and therefore more important to understand to be able to appropriately avoid and engage your opponent on your terms. In 40k/Fantasy where ranges are often extreme such as 48"+, this concept is applied that little bit less. A missile launcher in the middle of its deployment zone for example can reach to either corner on the opposite side of the board, not exactly easy to avoid for your opponent or hard to engage with for the controlling player.

48" from the centre of your deployment can reach nearly everywhere on the board.
Since these gaming systems are often based on such large ranges, threat ranges are perhaps ignored or less understood in relation to these systems. They do however play an important role - not every weapon is based upon massive ranges. Even 24" has significant limitations on a 6'x4' board yet this range would seem massive for a game like Warmachine/Hordes and average for Warhammer 40,000. That's not even to mention the smaller threat ranges of charges (generally 12" but as high as 24" or 28" with certain transports) or short-ranged weapons like flamers, meltaguns, rapid-fire weapons, pistols, etc. This is where threat ranges are really important to ensure you can engage your opponent or avoid your enemy as much as possible. This is where understanding over-extension and defensive play also comes into its own - you can easily over-extend if you don't know how to support your units (again, look at the Fallacy 40k post on suicide melta). These articles and this introduction into the topic will hopefully clear these concepts up an allow players to use their units to maximum efficiency.

Threat ranges - What is it and how do you apply it to Warhammer 40,000?

Threat range is essentially the maximum range a unit can affect you. A meltagun has a range of 12" for example and an infantry unit can move 6" and fire it. Therefore a meltagun has a threat range of 18" (12" for melta range) on an infantry model. If you chuck the unit in a transport, that threat range increases to 27" (21" for melta range) due to the 12" move of the vehicle, 2.9999" disembarkment and 12" range of meltagun. You can see the drastic improvement of the meltagun's threat range by simply adding in a Rhino - not understanding this would see you standing their flabbergasted as your opponent wrecks your tanks willy nilly.

This is where the first part of understanding threat ranges comes in - you need to know what your opponent's army can do as well as your own. Again, this is far more important in Warmachine/Hordes where not knowing what a single model can do can lead to an assassination run but is still very important in 40k. By knowing the rules of every model on the table you can identify the maximum threat range of a unit and the optimal threat range of a unit. Harking back to our meltagun example, the best option for them is to move 6", fire form the top-hatch and be within melta range. That's only around 11" (6" move, 1" shooting over hull, 6" melta range) and significantly less than the maximum 27". If you know this and cannot completely avoid the maximum threat range of your opponent, you can try to avoid the optimal range and thereby force your opponent to overextend themselves to reach you or to wait.

This follows on to being able to guess/eyeball distances. No pre-measuring is allowed in 40k but it's pretty easy to have a rough idea of distances without being able to eyeball range at all. The abstract math of this has been covered before but there are in-game systems you can use as well. Moving your own units allows you to measure in any direction their maximum movement; shooting long-ranged weapons will tell you how far a unit is from them and then by extrapolating this data to the board, you can often get a pretty accurate guess on how far other units are from each other, etc. As the linked article indicates, you know some basic measurements such as the board, table quarters, diagonals, etc. but you also know base sizes, how big tanks are, etc. Use these numbers plus any measurements made during the game to accurately identify distances between units. If you can do this well, threat ranges become an excellent tool you can use as you are able to keep out of range of your opponent's optimal threat range (or even out of it completely) whilst maximising your ability to stay within your optimal threat range for your entire army.

It's important to emphasise this last bit. If you can get a single unit into optimal threat range (or even just in their threat range), consider holding back. Sometimes there are cases when you are going to want to throw a unit forward, even at their maximum threat range, but staying together as an army with overlapping threat ranges will often net a better result. This is part of understanding over extension (rarely do it yourself but try and force your opponent to by sitting on the cusp of their maximum threat range) and defensive play (moving your army together as one, forcing your opponent to over-extend, etc.).

And this brings us to external factors which influence threat ranges. Specifically terrain but intervening units and the opponent's actions are going to impact the range of threat ranges. Moving a unit through terrain will maintain their maximum threat range for example, but the second you roll less than a six on a difficult terrain test, their threat range decreases. Same with tanks and getting immobilised on terrain. Smart opponents will try and force as many units through terrain as possible to potentially reduce your threat ranges by a significant margin which can also leave your unit (or army) exposed. Having to go around intervening units or terrain will also reduce your threat ranges as some of your movement has been used laterally. This is where defensive manoeuvres like blocking and bubble-wrap can be very important in reducing the threat range of opponents, particularly with assaults. Furthering this, being able to block line of sight will completely invalidate threat ranges of units unless they are able to move around the intervening object to gain line of sight. This will often predicate moving laterally which can again keep units out of optimal threat ranges. Whilst you cannot move terrain for your advantage in this way, using terrain placement plus mobile tanks to block line of sight can again force your opponent to over extend themselves, lose forward movement to try and engage your army or simply not be able to shoot/wait. All good things for you.


Whilst a very basic concept, the application and understanding of threat ranges on the battlefield will greatly improve the tactical dynamic of games. This is where the vast majority of tactics in 40k are actually composed and why movement is some important to the game. If a player can use their movement to ensure the non-long ranged shooting element of their army reaches optimal threat range at the same time against an opponent, they have a huge advantage. Conversely, if another player doesn't understand threat ranges and is just throwing units forward willy nilly, they are going to be grossly disadvantaged against anyone who understands the basic premise of this concept.

With this now tucked away we shall begin to look at some of the applications of threat ranges in other articles such a the ones I mentioned above. If there is anything you'd like to look at which you feel I haven't covered, please let me know and I'll try and do something on that as well.

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