Jwolf here. I have noticed a distinct difference in how I play in casual and tournament play, and I’ve noticed the comments about use of Reserves in our Battle Reports and the criticisms of Goatboy’s lists and tactics, both here on BoLS and at our FLGS. I’d like to talk a little about these and how they relate to the basic truths of Fifth Edition 40k.
First, Goatboy is one of the nicest humans to play a game with that you could hope for (except when he’s playing me and the dice desert him, then he’s a bit grumpy). His lists and play style for 40K have been slowly coming off stuck to full throttle, so that now he can actually not club the baby seals every single time. What makes his game so effective is that he plays for domination in the Assault Phase and efficacy in the Shooting Phase. This matters because you cannot generally kill more than one unit a turn with shooting, but you can kill half an army in one assault. If you look at his lists, you will notice the recurring theme of very brutal assault forces and efficient methods for delivering them – multiple Land Raiders, clouds of Wolves, KFF-shrouded Battlewagons and so forth. What many fail to see is that he’s also efficient in his selection of firepower to allow these Assault forces to have something tender to chew on when they get there – lots of Predators, Long Fangs, and Lootas in almost every list. There’s not a lot of subtlety to the tactics, but there is artistry in getting them right, and Goatboy does it very well.
On the other side, a lot of our Battle Reports have extensive amounts of Reserves (especially if I’m in the battle). Reserves are all about denying the opponent the ability to pin you down before their assault wave gets there and/or deny their shooting the ability to open up your transports (or just kill you). Yes, Reserves can go horribly wrong, but they can also keep the enemy from closing towards your board edge and, with multiple objectives, make it possible to effectively remove an enemy’s strongest units from the game at no cost to yourself. The point of Reserving is facing the enemy somewhere other than directly into the teeth of their strength, not charging hell-for-leather. Reserves also open up Outflanking, which increases the area where your units can appear by 133% (assuming you have normal Reserves and Outflankers). This in turn means that the enemy will more than likely be required to keep their main combatants in the center of the board, at least until a significant portion of your force is in play. It also means that you are much more likely to get shots at side and rear armor, (or even from Melta range), which makes Predators much less happy.
You may notice that in neither case do I emphasize shooting, which seems odd, because shooting generally play a crucial role in a lot of games of 40K. Let me be clear, you have to be able to shoot to win 40K under most circumstances (otherwise your opponent can maneuver for late objective grabs and other painful nonsense). Conversely, it is very rare that shooting will, on it’s own, allow you to defeat a good opponent – going to ground in cover means that almost any unit is extremely difficult to budge off an objective at long range. This means you have to be able to get into knife range and actually knock the enemy off of objectives most of the time. Yes, Tank shocks can do this, but the 1-in-6 chance of failing to get through the terrain, coupled with the enemy’s ability to block your tanks with their own means that counting on tank shock to claim objectives is much less of a percentage move than good old fashioned stabbing.
I know, because I watch other people’s battles and read other sites, that many players put their faith in shooting; after all, wasn’t Darkwynn’s army that won 2009 Ard Boyz just an Alpha Strike shooting army? (yes, yes it was). Certainly having excellent shooting as well as maneuverability is an asset that is required for a top-tier army. With the release of the Space Wolves, Tyranids, and Blood Angels, no longer is simple firepower enough to win games – you must have assault capability.
The only question is, do you go for Goatboy 40K, and ram a brick into your opponent’s face, or Fritz 40K (because Fritz seems to have been preaching about it the longest) and dance into only the fights you want to start? Either way, sharpen your knives if you want to find your way to the top tables.
Your thoughts on the proper balance of assault vs shooting elements and full throttle vs guileful maneuvering in successful armies is welcome. Jwolf out!