Sunday, January 3, 2010

Three D's of 40k

( I wrote this a primer for my old store when 5th ed was early in it's release, and I think it has merit elsewhere. I find myself having to remember key elements on occasion, and when I forget them...I usually lose, or at least struggle) Smile

The three D’s, a 40k 5e primer….
Or where we go wrong and how to fix it?

Okay, we’ve got this whole 5th ed thing…and we find ourselves wondering, "selves…why is this becoming almost as much of an issue as 2nd to 3rd edition?"

The why is simple, because 3.5 and 4th edition were dumbed down versions of prior systems, whereas 5th edition appears to be similar and in fact is far from it.
TLOS, Scoring Units and fundamental but subtle rules changes (multiple assaults, leadership mods going away in shooting, no sweeping advances and MOST importantly IMHO the increase in reserves and the ability to manipulate them…the list goes on) has altered 5th ed almost as dramatically as the old 2nd to 3rd shift.
What has become MOST important was lost in the prior editions, and that is duality of function. I am not speaking of redundancy, nor for that matter multi-role functions, but application on the battlefield. It’s not whether a unit INATELY performs two or more functions, but where we apply its actions in multiple avenues.
3rd through 4th focused units into specific roles, and ‘trained’ us to think in these terms. We saw our transport as a single use item with less value after delivery, saw dedicated single function units as primo (devastators come to mind) and saw sub-par units that bolstered a SINGLE aspect of an army as acceptable because that role was needed.
5th edition has changed this so fundamentally, and has yet to be totally realized by a great portion of the player base. I am not of the opine that there is one way to play 40k, like some out there espousing only certain styles of play, or certain build types. I am of the camp that says HOW we play is (or nearly so) as important as what we build. The result of play will, in the long run, guide players to more efficient builds by default and on their own resulting in a more pure (but original) competitive environment.

Thus, the 3 D’s; Disbursement, Destruction and Denial. Each is bolstered by the other, but in order to be efficient we have to follow ONE simple rule, and if you do this where your opponent does not you WILL win…. NEVER PERFORM AN ACTION THAT DOES NOT FURTHER TWO OF THE FOLLOWING CATAGORIES AT THE SAME TIME. Period, ever. If you are doing one of these things with a unit you can do another. Trying to do all three can gum you up, it’s usually a two-fer (excepting fun coinkidinks). Let’s explore the definitions first.

Disbursement: I will define this as placing/replacing your forces where they will do your opponent the least good.
On the surface it’s simple, movement. So let’s look at that. Get there quickly and in one piece. I am iterating the obvious only as a part of the greater whole.
-Best way, in a transport. It’s fast, it’s easy and it gives you protection from more than just weapons. It isolates you from effects such as psychic powers and area effects. Transport’s extend your range by movement as well as creating a larger footprint to measure radial effects from (sanctuary anyone?).
-Second, deployment. You have to support your battle-plan with thoughts to your first 3 moves (projection beyond that is possible, but cannot take into account vagaries of luck like a range 24” melta shot that kills your Land Raider on turn 2). Deploy to support and protect that intended path and protect the units key to that path.
-Third, reserves. Utilize reserves in such a way that choices made early in the game will receive reinforcement OR hopefully become obvious to the enemy only when they come into play.
-Fourth, RUN. Not under movement, as it occurs in the shooting phase and can be used to correct for bad difficult terrain rolls. If you are NOT shooting, and you are not parked on an objective with no LOS or in a ‘port that moved 12”+ RUN. Fergawdssake if you couldn’t shoot, and you didn’t move toward the enemy, then you need to be further away…(obviously the table edge is a mitigating factor here).
-Fifth, toys. If you have ANYTHING that bounces or does weird shite (GOI) do it now. Make certain your opponent cannot simply track you in a linear fashion, make him lead a fast moving target and lose ground if he’s closing (or bounce his LOS around by shifting your own base of ops around as much as possible).
Whatever you do, distribute your threat constantly. Make certain that through your maneuver that a greater portion of your army threatens a smaller portion of his frequently and with support from your other elements. Screen with hardy forces, flank with faster forces and keep everything within a single turn threat if you can.
If he is faster, make certain that every element in your army can bring weight of fire/assault on your next turn if he comes in and tries to snipe a portion of your force/key element. Punish him for getting close.
Maneuver is key in all wargames, and it has become more important in 5e. To quote one of my favorite games, ‘Speed is Life’. In 40k it’s maneuver, but the same concept applies. Though you cannot apply deployment after the game starts, the rest applies to the whole game and ties distinctly into the next category,

Denial: controlled isolation, includes movement block, contestation or lethal zone threat.
-First, deny an enemy an area of the battlefield that is key. This can be occupying an objective, terrain that an opponent cannot present a flank to or something that may be otherwise important before him. You can do this with killy units to hang on for dear life until reserves get there, or a soft unit that may bait them into early commitment you can capitalize on. Either way, create a circumstance they cannot ignore, but cannot just sweep aside.
-Second, utilize vehicles as movement blocks. Don’t hesitate to put a Land Raider in the middle of a movement channel if it might be killed. Stick it in your opponents face. He has a 1 in 6 chance of blowing it up, and if he doesn’t it’s a big frikkin brick making his maneuver day ‘epic fail’.
Drop pods should always drop in such a way as to block his straight line movement. I would go almost so far as to say favor that over optimal unit drop, but it’s iffy. ALWAYS look to the movement block first though.
Speed bumps from fantasy became more important in 40k, use em. Throw what you can to corner/restrict.
Denial is for zone control. If you control territory or movement, you can control the tempo of the game from the word go. Denial will win you games. Denial will frustrate a player, hopefully prompting more errors. Ultimately, denial will give you greater control of where you know your opponent will be in future turns. THAT control will produce a cascade effect that can make each subsequent turn easier than the last. You don’t have to kill to win, though you do have to kill to deny…thus

Destruction: reduction of your opponents fighting ability by the expedient of removing his forces or isolating them beyond recovery.
-First, simple killy. If you can kill it, do so. Really quite simple and the bare essence of any wargame. You must use disbursement to do this and not get punished. First blood is NOT the end all be all. If I lose Vindicator to pop a 5 man Assault squad, I lose. Always evaluate by immediate threat (2 turns out). If a unit will produce more than its value in VP’s in the next 2 turns, it must die. If not, relegate it to the next shooting phase.
If you shoot at it, KILL IT. Keep shooting it, until it’s DEAD (or worthless as a fighting unit early in a non-KP mission). Do NOT get distracted. Do NOT lose sight of your goal, and if you shelve a non-threatening unit early, KILL IT LATER. Pour ungawdly, sick and unmitigated levels of fire into any unit you have prioritized, and REPEAT. J
There is NO SUCH THING as overkill in a wargame.
-Second, isolation. With denial, you can isolate units by the simple rhino block, by disbursement you can redeploy your own base of ops and reduce a slower moving enemy to floundering and by deployment itself (refused flank etc) you can cut by half an early deploying players threat zone thus extending/enhancing your own. Any action that prevents him from engaging you allows you to single out and destroy isolated elements.
-Third, immobilize. From the simple immobilization of a transport/blocked tank, to tying up a key unit with a nigh-unkillable one (tarpits) you can lock down part of an opponents army while piece-mealing the rest. Regardless of how or what, stopping a unit’s ability to maneuver at all can be as good as a kill on occasion, and allow you to shelve a unit for later attention.
As I said, Destruction really does represent the ultimate goal of a wargame, but destroying your opponent’s ability to wage war does not always mean pyrrhic victories of death and mayhem. It can simply be bogging down and isolating units until you are no longer threatened.
You must use Disbursement (maneuver) to apply your gentle ministrations to the enemy, and you must Deny them battlefield position to return the favor.

Ultimately, in order to perform optimally and win consistently, these things must be done in concert. Each action you perform must be weighed in such a way that it will perform more than one of these tasks while minimizing your opponent’s ability to do the same. Thinking each step through is key, and weighing the advantages of which you are going to do at the detriment of another is a must.

Unit purchases need to fit into these categories. When we look at units being effective, and when we purchase them, they need to be able to perform at MINIMUM two of these tasks. At MINIMUM. When you find yourself looking at a choice, and you have to reach to apply it to multiple roles, then you should probably discard it. Space marines are strong because of this, most of their units can (by dint of their nature) produce multiple tasks.
When we make purchases that limit these options, we are making a conscious effort to apply a personal like over an efficient choice. If we do this, just like if during a game we go after a personal goal instead of satisfying the above, we choose to reduce our competitiveness for agenda.
This may have come off as pedantic, and is not intended to be so (or condescending)…it is just thoughts that come to mind after playing so long, and seeing what has developed out of edition changes and 5th ed play. Right now, the environment is very Mechanized, and I don’t see that changing dramatically over the next 6 months. I have hope that Space Wolves and Tyranids will have some impact on that, as Daemons did before and other’s will after…but right now, I love tanks…and they are the most effective method of applying the 3 D’s.

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