Wednesday, December 8, 2010

40k for Dummies: Shoot 'Em Up!

For this next installment of 40k for Dummies, I want to talk about the shooting phase. This is an often misunderstood phase of the game and I wanted to clear up a few things. 

As many may (or may not) know, 40k consists of 3 main phases: movement, shooting, and assault.  To win a game, you can occasionally participate in just one of these phase, or perhaps even two, but 99.9% of the time, you need to perform well in all three to win on a consistent basis.  With this information, you need to know that no one phase of the game wins it for you.  You can go heavy on shooting or assault units and still not win a game.  Overloading a phase is an often used strategy, but it produces paper/rock/scissor situations which makes Warhammer more like a slot machine and less like a strategy war game. 

So, say this with me.  "Shooting is a tool I use to help win the game."  It's that simple. It isn't the point of the game. That would be duck hunt. You can't expect your shooting to obliterate everything all the time.  You would also be missing the point if you thought that every time you shot at a target you had to destroy it to be successful.  So, before I get ahead of myself, let's talk about what kind of shooting there.

Know Your Guns

Long Range, Anti-tank-  These weapons usually are heavy weapons in a squad or on a vehicle (are there any other kind?).  They have a long range generally 24" or greater and have high strength and low AP ratings. They generally only fire once, but in a few cases might fire more.

Anti-Infantry- These weapons usually are heavy weapons as well.  They have a long range (24" or >) and have medium strength (usually around S5-S7).  Typically a good anti-infantry weapon will have multiple shots. 2 good examples of good anti-infantry guns are heavy bolters and assault cannons.  They are of medium strength and have multiple shots.  Anti-infantry guns may or may not have an AP value able to penetrate armor.  Really, the gold standard in AP is something that can negate an MEQ's armor. That doesn't often happen with anti-infantry guns.  When firing at MEQs they generally rely on mounding up wounds and hoping the models fail their armor saves.  They are good at killing GEQs though.  Most GEQs have an armor of 4+ at best.  These types are easily killed by a good anti-infantry gun.

Short Range, Anti-tank-  These weapons usually come in the assault weapon form meaning you can move and shoot them.  The down side is that these weapons are usually short in range, usually less than 24".  That said, short range anti-tank guns can be very destructive.  Meltaguns, infernus pistols and DE blasters are just some examples of highly destructive short range anti-tank weapons.  Their trade off is that you have to be in the danger zone to effectively use them. 

Small-Arms-  Everything else.  If it has low strength and high AP, it is small arms.  You are basically hoping to knock off a model or two with these shots before you assault in.  Or, if you can bring enough fire to bear, you might even wipe out a small unit with torrents of fire.

There are also oddball guns that don't fit into any distinct category like plasma weapons which have the potential to pop light armor and can effectively kill most infantry in the game due to their low AP values.

Target Priority

I start out with a description of types of shooting because it is important to know what types of weapons you have and what they should be used for.  If you have a dakka pred with an autocannon and two heavy bolter sponsons, you don't want to waste your time shooting at a land raider.

Once you know what your guns do, you need to decide how to use them each turn.  Again, your goal isn't total destruction each turn with each shot.  If you think that, you will waste many shots.

Shooting is a tool that helps you to accomplish your overall mission and win the game.  You won't always kill with a shot, but if your shooting damages your opponent's battleplan it is successful.  Let's imagine, for an instant, a scenario to illustrate my point.

You are a marine player with a dreadnought kitted out with a rocket launcher and TL lascannon.  You are playing against IG and you shoot your dread's weapons at a chimera.  After the dust settles you manage to glance and score a stunned result.  An inexperienced player would curse their bad luck and pump more shooting into that chimera because "IT MUST DIE!"  An experienced player will move on to the next target and put fire into it.  Why the difference?  The stunned result will keep the chimera from moving and shooting.  If it is far enough back on the board, it will be totally ineffective in its next turn.  Mission accomplished. 

Shooting should be used to make sure your opponent's units can't do their job or to see if they can be completely destroyed, which ever comes first.

It is okay to only stun or immobilize a vehicle if that keeps a portion of your opponent's army from doing its job.  It is also okay to totally destroy a unit or vehicle, but that shouldn't always be your aim.  That stunned or shaken result may just suffice. 

You also have to know when you haven't done enough.  If you shoot at the same chimera and score a weapon destroyed result but nothing else, in its next turn the opposing player can move up the chimera to deploy the vets inside to melta your land raider. You didn't do enough to stop the opponent's units from doing their job. 

Target priority is all about going from threat to threat, highest to lowest, eliminating them as well as possible. In any turn, you have to decide which threat is most immediate and attempt to deal with it.  Once it is eliminated move on to the next threat.  It really can be that simple.


Sometimes a player will get fixated on a target because it is the uber-unkillable-monster-o-death.  If it isn't an immediate threat, don't worry about it.  If it is, eliminate the threat. Don't be fooled into jumping priorities just because a unit looks dangerous on paper.  Assess immediate threats and stick to them.

Sometimes dice are wonky.  If you have a bad round of shooting due to dice, there isn't anything you can do about.  This is yet another reason shooting is only one tool in your belt.  Make sure your movement and your potential assaults are such that even if you have a poor round of shooting, your opponent stands to gain very little. 

So, what's left?

Shoot 'em up!

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