Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You Got Owned...Because You Didn't Have a Plan

So blogger is being completely stupid and not allowing me to add pictures, but whatever.  Blogger ain't the boss of me.  I am continuing my "You Got Owned" series of articles today.  In the last article, I talked about how not knowing the rules can lead you to lose a game.  Check it out here.

In this article, I am going to talk about how not having a plan of action pre-determined for your army can cause you to lose. Simply put, if you don't have an overall idea, or strategy, for your army, you are walking into a situation where the terms of the game will be dictated for you with little to no recourse on your part. It is important to have some idea of how your army works and what it can do on the table. This starts when you build the list and ends when you come out winner or loser in a game. You have to have a plan. It is that simple.

Planning in the List Building "Phase"

I often joke that there is no list building phase to Warhammer 40k or even Warhammer Fantasy. I say this because some people erroneously believe that if they build a list hard enough, they can win any game by sheer virtue of having a super hard list. This simply isn't true. However, this doesn't mean that you can leave strategy and planning out of list building. As a matter of fact it is hugely important. If you check out Yes The Truth Hurts, 3++ is the New Black or a plethora of other sites, you will see that list building is an important part of Warhammer 40k. That said, it won't win you the game, but it is where we will start when making a plan.

There are many reasons people get owned due to not starting their planning at list building. Here are a few quick reasons:

1) Lack of focus. Your list is built trying to include too many elements which ultimately waters down the whole army.
2) Too much focus. Your list is so focused on a single aspect of the game, usually shooting or assault, that if you don't perform well in that phase you lose. This is your typical rock army.
3) Lack of redundancy. Redundancy here simply means having a backup plan should you lose some portion of your army. Stelek's YTTH best-of lists spam units to provide redundancy. Thus, if one Space Marine squad with a meltagun in a razorback is destroyed, you have two more to fill it's place.

So, it is important, and in my opinion, best to strive for balance. You want an army that can compete in all portions of the game, whether it is movement/board control, shooting, or assault. Create a list that can answer questions such as the following.

Do I have the tools to take out armor of all kinds (AV10-AV14)?
Do I have the tools to shoot up infantry?
Do I have units that can provide a combat threat?
Do I have units that can claim objectives?
Do I have the speed to close with my opponent's army before I get shot up too much?

The list can go on, but we will stop with those questions. The bottom line is that you are thinking about upcoming games while building your lists.

Strategic Planning

Now that you have a list, what do you do with it? One of the biggest flaws I see in newer players is that they get a list, possibly a good one, but when the game starts they don't know what to do with it. From deployment to execution, they have no focus on what their army should be doing. They respond to target saturation poorly, dividing up their army. They react on the backfoot. They make few gains, if any.

Another way that planning can cause you to lose is to not have an understanding of how your army works before getting involved in a game. This is huge. Again, I subscribe to a fairly basic structure for planning my armies out. After building a list I do the following:

1) I look up relevant special case rules (codex specific rules or BRB unit specific rules or USRs). I also write down important rules that have to occur during a specific portion of the game so that I don't forget. For instance, in my current Blood Angel Sanguinary Guard army, I usually have to write down a reminder that Dante's death mask needs to be used at the beginning of the game to curse an HQ choice of my opponent. I also write down a note to remind to roll for red thirst for my army. In my first few games, I noticed that I was forgetting these rules and they could definitely help me in-game. Don't be afraid to write things down.

2) Have a preset, yet flexible, deployment scheme. Basically, you should have an idea of how to deploy your army before you even see a tabletop. I mention flexible because you also have to have a plan should your optimal terrain setup not be available. Having a good deployment scheme in place pre-game allows you to think about things like:

How will your protect the low AV sides of your tanks?
How will your utilize terrain and cover for infantry units?
How will you deploy/counter infiltrators, scouts, and outflankers?
How will you provide yourself with optimal cover while maintaining good fire lanes?
How will your deploy to prevent first turn alpha striking?

Again the list can go on. Having a general idea of how you want to deploy can make the opening turns of your games run much more smoothly.

3) Have contingency plans. Unexpected things happen in game. In Warhammer 40k, every unit is always one good phase away from being destroyed. What happens when a key unit is obliterated? I will actually be devoting an entire article in this series to this idea, so I won't go into detail here, but this is something you have to have in mind. What if moneymaker unit A dies?

Like any strategy wargame, Warhammer 40k requires you to have a plan. It's best not to develop your plan on the fly as doing so under stress from fighting a losing battle or some such can cause you to make poor choices. Going in with a pre-determined, yet flexible plan can make all of the difference between winning and getting owned.


Do you like this series of articles?  Subscribe to Gone to Ground to get updates as new articles in the series become available.

You can also see a complete list of "You Got Owned" articles on the Series Overview page, here.

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