“Foolish mon-keigh! The stars themselves once lived and died at our command and yet you still dare to oppose our will?”
If you have been following my blog for any amount of time then you know my playstyle for Saim-Hann Eldar– deception, guile, reserves, and general trickery. One never knows what is true and what is an illusion on the table…
Besides being fun as hell, on a practical level this playstyle suits the current meta-game of the Eldar codex. Our units were never cheap and disposable, and they are even less so with each new codex, requiring finesse and balance to work as an entire warhost.
That said, there are times one has to go balls to the wall with a crushing all out attack delivering the alpha strike. For those new to our unique hobby the alpha strike is where you take first turn and deliver such a crushing blow to your opponent in the shooting phase that their entire army is broken on turn one. Unable to mount any further resistance they can’t really win the game, and the rest of the game is spent mopping things up. Think of the alpha strike as the ultimate sucker punch.
Why go for the alpha strike? Maybe you are playing in a tournament and you want to get the maximum points for the mission to help catapult you ahead as a cushion for the next games. Maybe you are facing an army that you can/need to break before it moves out. Need to punk those rhinos before they can pop smoke, thin the Tyranid horde a bit, or maybe you just want to show the might and majesty of the Eldar?
Why not go for the alpha strike? If it fails you are hanging out in the wind and in a place you don’t want to be, while taking first turn closes your options later in the game to have that last turn to grab/contest objectives and pull ahead in kill points.
Let’s take a look how to pull off the alpha strike from a Saim-Hann perspective and how to deal with one if you are facing it on the other side of the table…
Obviously you have to take first turn so it is going to be a battle of the dice to see who goes first. Even if you lose that roll off you may still get passed first turn if it is an objective mission. Either way now that you have first turn you are going to want to deploy in the center and as far forward as possible. The alpha strike is all about pushing out your firepower so everything gets deployed.
Now, as small of a chance as it is, and actually it isn’t that small, being one in six, you need to plan for the possibility of your opponent seizing first turn from you. Just in case, you need to place your models so your wave serpents, fire prisms, and vypers get cover saves from the rest of your models. Ironically, in this case your jetbikes are up front to act as a cover save shield. You don’t want to get totally alpha striked by your alpha strike! Of course this is going to be adjusted for terrain, and a board setup with a nice big piece of terrain in the center is awesome.
If your opponent doesn’t seize and you are going first, fortune up the council and guide the unit that pumps out the most shots. Then you take a step back and see which side of the table your opponent is weaker on. The key is getting your opponent to spread out across the board, and this can be influenced through objective placement by stringing them out. Whichever side is weaker, with less units, that is the side you are going to move out against and wolfpack. Use your wave serpents and other tanks to create a cover wall blocking off the weaker elements of your army (jetbikes and vypers) so they get a cover save from the shooting next turn. Once you take out that side of your opponent’s army, you then work your way down the table. The speed of Saim-Hann is especially suited to an alpha strike since you can gang up all of your army on a small portion of your opponents.
Now, how to deal with the alpha strike when it is being aimed at you. Certain armies like Imperial Guard always like to use the first turn strike. With all their cheap chimeras and valks this seems to be the one trick that they all use. Depending on your army you have two options- play the reserves game of go for the seize.
The reserves game works very well for mech Eldar since our units can move and shoot when they enter the game making up for any lost ground on turn one. The down side to this is that if you roll poorly for reserves you might have your opponent shooting all his stuff at one or two units, but then you use cover saves from turbo boosting and moving fast, along with staying out of range of all but the longest guns to help keep your stuff up. If you are really paranoid about this then throw in a cheap Autarch for the Master-Strategist reserve bonus.
The second option is the ultimate big balls move and personally I only use it in certain games (read tournaments) where I need to win big or are facing an army that really has me bested- like a gunline IG spam list with the autocannon tanks that can ignore cover saves. In this case when my opponent is looking to AS me, after they deploy everything out, I’ll then deploy all my stuff out front and center and then gamble on seizing the turn. In this case, literally the game comes down to a die roll, since I’m blasted if my opponent still goes first. That said, its a gamble that should only be done when you are probably going to lose anyway, or are so far behind in a tourney, you need a miracle to pull back ahead. When you do get that “6” and catch your opponent hanging out there it is a wonderful game. I can say first hand from both experience and seeing it done to others that this reverse alpha strike is always unexpected and completely devastating. If you don’t get it – well the Eldar are a dying race after all…
With risk comes great reward and in many cases the alpha strike can be a gamble- how are you guys using it in your armies, and if now are you considering using it now?