HOLD THE LINE!!! Hilly's guide to defence - Warhammer 40K Fantasy
 

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    HOLD THE LINE!!! Hilly's guide to defence

    The principles of defence

    Well last week I covered the attack so this week it is time to have a look what to do if you are going to be defending. It should be noted that while these principles will provide you the backbone to a defensive strategy, defence should only be use to weaken the enemy in order to enable you to conduct offensive operations once again. In other words unless you are playing a specific attacker defender scenario, you should look to use the defence for only a short period. Most games of 40K are won, with the decisive and brutal use of force!

    So what are the principles of the defence:

    Use of ground
    Mutual support
    All round defence
    Depth
    Flexibility
    Centralization of firepower
    Security
    Integrated defence
    Formation design for battle

    I will now cover each of these in turn.

    Use of ground

    The use of ground normally is one of the most important principles of defence, this is due to the fact that it can serve to be a combat multiplier, how you ask? Well looking at 40K examples; consider forcing your enemy to move through a forest that is 15 inches away from you, not only will they have to take difficult terrain and potentially be slowed dramatically, you will still be able to provide rapid fire weapons onto them, admittedly only the one shot over 12�, but it is better than nothing. You can also use ground to screen (protect from enemy fire) your troops, conserving your combat force for when you need to bring it too bear. Furthermore you can force the enemy into certain vehicle mobility corridors, or risk moving through difficult terrain and immoblising their vehicles. Finally remember that if you can kill a vehicle in the right spot it will become a level three wreck that is area terrain, so you can use their dead to provide you with more terrain to use.

    The importance of the terrain will be determined by the type of army you are using to defend with, obviously Khorne berserkers will just run forwards, but a static shooty guard army will need to be very careful indeed.

    Looking back at the tactics for 40K article/thread I did a month or so ago, you will remember that I mentioned an acronym OCOKA (Observation &fields of fire, Cover and concealment, Obstacles, Key terrain and Avenues of approach) this is an important step in setting up your defence. By going through these points in turn you will formulate the strongest position that you can and understand the enemy’s likely approach onto your position. By knowing where the enemy is going to come from early you are able to ensure that if he does get there, that your reserves will be well positioned to assist your main force.

    Mutual Support

    The principle idea of mutual support is that no element of your list is left on its own, everything is able to support AND be supported by at least one other element in your list. A famous example of this failing was the Allied operation is Holland during WWII known as Operation Market Garden. This involved a two stage attack, the dropping of paratroopers behind enemy lines to secure a number of key bridges in order to speed the Allied advance to Germany, supported by a column of tanks advancing to relieve the paratroopers. Paratroopers are light infantry with little integral support (machine guns and light mortars, no heavy guns and few weapons to take out tanks) in order to be successful they needed the support of the tanks, when this support was not given to the British para element (supported if my memory serves me right by the Polish) they were decimated.

    When defending you are likely to be outnumbered both in models and sometimes even in points, so it is important that you conserve your force, the best way to do that is to provide support to each element. In 40K mutual support can come in the form of firepower, or close combat. For example an elder list with banshees and dire avengers can achieve mutual support, the dire avengers take out the threats to the banshees with their firepower, while the banshees protect the avengers from close combat.

    Even if you have an advance element maybe in the form of infiltrators you should look to ensure that they are supported, this will mean that you are able to get more from them over the total game. It is important with this principle that you remember the Mutually Assured Destruction concept in my first article, because when you are defending just getting your points back may not be enough, due to the fact you may be outnumbered in points.

    All round defence

    The primary idea behind all round defence is that you protect your force from the enemy, especially the sneaky one that tries to attack you from where you least expect it. Yes in covering all approaches you will weaken your position, but through the careful positioning of key elements and the use of the ground you should still be able to bring your guns to bear in a suitably effective way.

    It is especially important to consider the use of all round defence if the opponent is making use of infiltrators or deep strike. Both of these options may allow them to sneak past your carefully constructed defences and allow them to destroy your defensive position or force you to commit your reserve early. Other times you really need to be aware of what your opponent has in the list is the space wolf scouts, these little buggers (well they are unless you are using them), can pack a massive punch and assault the turn they come onto the board. One of their favorite tactics is normally to come on and take out the rear armour of vehicles. The best way to defeat this sort of move (and can be done by deepstrikers too) is to put the rear of your vehicle against the board edge, that way they will never be able to hit it. But there is little you can do to protect a basilisk with its armour 10 sides, just pray to the dice gods. Lictors are the other unit that deserves a special mention with regards to the defence. With there special deepstrike into cover rules, you will need to ensure that you either fully occupy a piece of terrain or that you are more than 6 inches from it. Both of these moves will stop the lector from either a. using the piece of terrain to deepstrike into to start with (noting not allowed within 1� of an enemy) or from assaulting you once it is on the board.

    Depth

    Depth is important to a defensive position; and can be achieve in two ways, depth by fire and depth by position. Depth in both these contexts still has a place in 40K and I will look at the two of these separately and how they can be employed in any game you play.

    Depth by fire is achieved by utlising the different ranges of your weapons, in this way it is no different from the way that the military employs this concept, you have your long range weapons engaging at maximum distance. These are then supported by your shorter range weapons as the enemy advances. The position you place your weapons should be done so they are effective, but also to make the most of the depth you can achieve. For example there is little point deploying you havoc squad with las cannons at the forward edge of your deployment zone, unless factors like line of sight are that restrictive. By placing them further back in your battle line you will still be able to hit the enemy but you reduce their ability to hit your heavy weapons in return.

    When looking to employ depth of position you should look to maximise cover and terrain but also ensure that if an enemy assault element wipes out one component of your force they are not able to consolidate into the next squad. This way you will be able to either shoot the bjesus out of the enemy and or assault them yourself. The idea behind defence in depth is to ensure that the enemy advance is not able to achieve a break through and allow you or set the conditions for your forces to go back onto the offensive.

    Flexibility

    Being flexible in your approach to a game of 40K is important, just like on the battlefield, even the best made plans don’t last past the first shot. Arguably the fact that our game is run by dice means you have to be very flexible in your approach, always review your plans and look to see what situations you can exploit whether it is something that goes well for you or something that goes to custard for your opponent. This principle ties in very much with the principle of the initiative that I have mentioned a few times in articles that I have posted already.

    I have seen a number of players that have come up with a plan and then religiously stick to it despite the fact that it is no longer going to work, whether it is how they are approaching the mission or whether they lost a key component of their force. One good example I saw recently was conducted against me by a guard player. I had been able to approach to the point where I was about to be able to bring my guns to bear, as he was not going to be able to withdraw and escape my faster elements, he decided to charge all his guardsmen into my nids. While he was not able to over come me that assault could have gone either way and was a worthwhile gamble based on the position he was in.

    Being able to have flexibility does require a player to have a balanced list, an army that has the ability to deal with all comers and does not just rely on one element of its list to do all the damage or to take out key elements of the enemy force is required. Without this balance one will not be able to achieve flexibility as a good opponent will identify your weakness/es and exploit it/them.

    Centralisation of Firepower

    When you are playing a defensive battle you may find yourself outnumbered so being able to maximise your firepower in one place to destroy the enemy is critical. If you spread your forces out you will find you will not be able to decisively affect any part of the field of battle and the enemy will overwhelm you. This does not mean that you have to concentrate your force in one part of the battlefield; you can still achieve centralisation of firepower with a force that is spread out. How do you achieve this? This is achieved by placing elements in a position where they will be able to provide fire support to other elements of your force.

    It is also important to try to understand where the enemy is going to advance certain assets, for example where the tanks are likely to be and where the infantry will pass through. This way you will be able to ensure that your weapons are able to be used in an effective manor and not wasted on targets they are not able to destroy. In some cases it is important to centralise your firepower on certain areas to ensure the enemy will not advance through them, forcing them into a less desirable location and towards a position you have prepared for them.

    Security

    Security is important in modern warfare, it prevents the enemy from gaining knowledge on our forces, this knowledge is normally called intelligence and they can gain it from any number of sources. As 40K is an open game, ie you show your opponent your list, and they know what your units can do, as a result security is not that important.

    Integrated defence

    When defending it is important to have an integrated defence, this means combining all facets of your army to achieve your aim, namely the integration of fire support (artillery) close air support (flyers and fighter bomber raids) direct fire support (the use of direct fire heavy support weapons) and close assault (close combat). With respect to its application in 40k it is still relevant despite the small scale of the game. Choosing the targets for your fire support is critical to upsetting the plan of your opponent and his formation design for battle (how he will approach you and how is forces are arrayed), and thus ensuring victory for the defending forces.

    Integrating your defence is important, another way to describe this is target selection, you will need to ensure your weapons are effectively employed against your opponent to overcome the fact that you might be outnumbered. There are many different ways in which you can achieve this integrated defence but it starts when you are selecting your army. You will need to decide what type of defence you want to run and what sort of assets you want to employ. In this way you will be able to ensure you have the right tools for the job, for example you may wish to deny an area to the enemy so you take whirlwinds with castellan mines, or other area effect weapons. If you wish to mount a mobile defence you will need to ensure you have transports or a higher proportion of fast attack units.

    Either way once you have deployed your assets you will have to have an idea of how they will be employed, this is generally called a concept of offensive support.

    Formation design for battle

    Finally we will look at some of the deployment considerations. Some of these factors have been touched on already in the tactica that I posted a few weeks ago for iskate. The formation design for battle is very simply the way you deploy your forces. There is a limitless number of factors that need to be considered when you are deploying your forces regardless of the type of game you are playing. Regardless of this you need to remember that in 40K like on the modern battlefield there are restrictions placed on you and factors you need to consider. For example the best place for a defender to be is in cover, however to claim a cover save in 40K you need to have more than half your squad in the piece of cover. As a result of this cover you may find that you movement is significantly impeded and you may be vulnerable to the offensive support that your opponent will be able to bring to bear, if they have a large number of template weapons it may not be a good idea to be concentrated. The speed the enemy can move will also be a factor in the positions that you occupy, you may wish to put more space between you and him.

    Conclusion

    So as you can see there are a number of considerations that need to meet before you can successful mount a defence. This tactica can be used in any sort of mission, although it should be noted that one should never opt for a totally defensive posture, the defence should only be used for a short period of time in order to set the conditions for a successful offense.

    Here endth the lesson

    Army most recently finished (well kinda): Space Wolves
    Last Project completed: Converted Aegis Defence Lascannon
    Next Project: Long Fang Diaorama

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    thanks very much hilly! this will come in use when i start my new guard army keep it up!
    "In dedicato imperatum ultra articulo mortis"

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    Thanks for that great info!!! I'll be sure to use it in my games!!!

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