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Ok well after a long break from writing tactica articles I am back with the latest installment - Reserves. This will be the first of three new mini chapters that will go into the manual of war in the fullness of time, to form the 2007 update.
In 40 K there are a number of reasons that forces will be held in reserve, including deep-striking units, special deployment rules and the dreaded escalation. The use of the reserves rule does not have to be a bad thing, with careful consideration and planning it is possible to get a good synergy (combined effect) from reserves and the forces on the table at the start of the game. But not considering there effect can and often does unhinge an army due to the lack of combat power the force with reserves is able to apply to the battlefield.
One important thing to consider with reserves is to give them a role, work out what you want them to do once they arrive on the board and where you want them to deliver this effect. The role of most units is pretty clear, assault marines for example are a close combat unit, so you wonít leave them at the back of the board where they canít bring their strength to bear. Some units are more flexible in what they can do: Obliterators are a classic example of this, you can have them sit back and fire, move forward and fire with different weapons i.e. start with las-cannons and go to plasma guns once close enough.
There are a number of other roles your units can do though other than using their specific characteristics, for example that can be used to prevent an enemy from moving within a certain mobility corridor by covering it with fire or by being able to assault anything that moves there. In this way you can use reserves to expose certain enemy centres of gravity or critical vulnerabilities, for example by moving on in a certain position you may be able to threaten the side armour of a tank or moving assault marines behind a building you may be able to assault a guard heavy weapons platoon in the next turn.
By defining what your reserves will be doing once you bring them on the board you will ensure the units that you have to deploy at the start of the game are in the right position to be able to support your reserve forces. A battle plan that has considered at least initially where the reserves will come on and how they will perform will be more likely to hold the initiative in the early stages of the game, compared to the player that is flying by the seat of their pants when it comes to reserves. Holding the initiative early in the game is important especially in reserve missions in order to influence the battlefield in a way that will set the conditions for victory.
When deploying your initial forces ensure you do not block the LOS of your reserves, this also applies to the reserve you bring on first. It is important to understand where you intend to fire and how you can manage to the LOS to ensure that you can fire (and have a secondary target available if you get lucky). There is nothing worse than having an excellent killing ground established only to find you canít fire into it because one of your tanks was destroyed and blocks your LOS. This also proves that you need to be careful with the movement of your reserves, as I covered in the Chapter on the battlefield with OCOKA.
Missions will greatly effect how you play your reserves, sometimes you will be able to gain a significant advantage by having reserves come on in latter parts of the game, other times they will be a hindrance. Missions like cleanse are an example of when reserves coming on at the end of game can be great as you sneak into a table quarter. Missions like take and hold and recon, however, are not such good news. The fact that you canít always predict when reserves will be available means that you need to be continually adjusting your initial plan. As such reserves force you to observe the principle of war: flexibility. At time the player that is able to complete the OODA loop the quickest and hold the initiative will not only be able to get the biggest effect from their reserves, but their army as a whole.
Also you have to consider where you enemy is likely to bring his reserves on, as most times that you have reserves he will also have something held back. By looking at the board and considering the mission you should be able to work out to fair degree of accuracy where his reserves will come on. To do this well you need to consider the natures of the units that he has in reserve, in a similar way to what you should do with yours. Work out what sort of role he is likely to give these units. Once you have done this you should be in a position to be able to work out where the best spot on the battlefield is for him to bring them one. Ensure you remember to factor in who will be placing reserves first, if you are going first he may look to counter your reserves with his. If he goes first he may look to deny an avenue of advance to you by covering it with fire or positioning a counter assault element in easy strike range.
In conclusion the reserves rule forces you to think quickly and adapt your plan to the tactical situation that you find yourself in. While the initial plan of attack is important, you need to be able to adapt to how the dice and the enemy shape the battlefield. Give your reserve units a role and look to employ them in that role and take advantage of targets of opportunity that the enemy may present you with, target his critical vulnerabilities and centres of gravity at every opportunity. At the end of the day the reserve rules is not something to be scared of, but something to embrace for the challenge that it provides all commanders.
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Thank you for the post! Your assembled tactica is the best written discussion of 40K I have read anywhere.
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First paragraph, last sentence:"there effect" should be changed to "their effect"But not considering there effect can and often does unhinge an army due to the lack of combat power the force with reserves is able to apply to the battlefield.
6th paragraph, first sentence:Change effect to affect.Missions will greatly effect how you play your reserves...
Great article, I was afraid you were going to quit after the Manual!
Thanks Hilly! An enriching read as always. Looking forward to your next piece of work!
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