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Adapt or Die – Unit Usage in 40K

4 Minute Read
May 24 2010

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable. – Dwight Eisenhower

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. – Helmuth von Moltke

Above are a couple of quotes that apply to the mistakes I made at the Alamo 40K GT this last weekend, especially as they apply to my Chosen Chaos Space Marines. I outflanked with them in 4 of 5 games, even though I never faced a Mechanized IG or Space Marine force (at least none with a dozen or more vehicles, what I would call fully mechanized). I allowed my prior planning – Outflanking Chosen with Meltaguns coming in on the flanks – to override my common sense, and I ended up getting far less value from the Chosen then if I would have simply loaded them into their Rhino and moved straight into the battle lines. This particular case was a downfall for me, but there are a number of more common units that people plan to use in particular ways and rarely deviate from the plan, even when it would be very useful to do so. I’ll cover some of the common units and their misuses below.

#1 TH/SS Terminators with a Land Raider against mechanized enemies in an Objectives mission. I think I can count on one finger the number of times I have ever seen these guys not deployed by an opponent, even when it was obvious that I would be heading straight towards my opponent. This often gives me the chance to destroy the Land Raider early in the game and leave a serious threat walking and unable to threaten much of the board in the late game. Against an enemy who is mechanized and essentially forced to come to you for objectives, consider holding the Terminators in their Land Raider and in Reserve, thereby giving you almost half the board (12” move on, 2” disembark with 2” wide bases and a 6” charge) as a threat radius for the Terminators and your opponent will be forced to take that charge without the chance to shoot the Land Raider or Terminators first.

#2 Mechanized Guard going second against static heavy shooting and/or Drop Pod armies. Yes, Mechanized Guard have tons of firepower, and they need to be on the table to get the most value from that. However, an equally important asset is your vastly superior amounts of mobile scoring units. This means that poor reserve rolls are also less of an issue for you, so take that chance, especially if your opponent has a lot of drop pods. Either the pods will spread out, giving you the chance to defeat them in detail, or they will cluster, giving you the chance to use your superior range. Another tactic worth consideration in these circumstances is corner deployments that increase the chance of bad Drop Pod scatter and reduce the efficacy of some shooting deployments (obviously that Long Fang squad dead center of the opposing line will still be a problem).

#3 Suicidal Fire Dragons. Yes, Fire Dragons are for killing vehicles. But this does not mean that you need to trade them and their Wave Serpent for the first tank you can find. Let your other shooting work on some targets and commit those Dragons somewhere they might actually get to kill 2 vehicles – or maybe even live.

#4 Suicidal Doom of Malan’Tai – The Doom is so heavily used in a Pod and dropped into enemy lines that it seems like the a required choice in Tyranid armies. And 10 wound beasties are certainly terrifying. But with the profusion of Meltaguns in today’s environment, the chance of sucking the life out of a few handfuls of troopers doesn’t line up well with the relative certainty that 3 Strength 8 wounds are headed towards him on the opponent’s turn, making his super power become meaningless. Consider dropping his Spore empty and have him lurk in Reserve to devastate the enemy near your objective(s) and get locked into combat instead of triple meltagunned to the face.

#5 Nob Bikers as a Spearhead – Much like the Terminators in a Land Raider, Nob Bikers have an excellent charge range coming out of Reserve. Additionally, they are scoring in most armies. Consider letting the other Boyz get stuck in, diluting the enemy’s firepower and ability to focus on you Nob Bikers, so that this unit can get the most killing done (and hopefully avoid those Thunderhammers…)

#6 Sniper Scouts in Fortified Ruins – Yes, the 2+ Cover save you have is fantastic, but no one shoots those guys anyway. Look at the board and consider if Outflanking towards an objective is a better use of this unit, as it will almost certainly not hold an objective that it is deployed on at the beginning of the game (and if it does, you almost certainly didn’t need that objective anyway, because you will have massacred your opponent). Outflanking is especially worth while when your opponent has no Monstrous Creatures to snipe.

#7 Flamestorm Baal Predators – Outflanking or Scouting. It seems like everyone has a favorite way to use these, and pretty much sticks to that. The other option might be a better choice. For example, Outflanking is probably better if there are multiple Land Raiders on the opposing side – you don’t want the Baals on the field until those things are opened up and/or away from the squishier units holding the rear objectives. On the other hand, why Outflank if you can vaporize a squad of Long Fangs on turn 1?


Those are some observations I have on choosing the use of your units once you’re at the table, and not before. I’d be interested to hear where you habitually use units a certain way and have noticed that your habit isn’t always the best choice.

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