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Cleanse and purge, leave no trace of the enemy. Orbital bombardment prepares the landing zone for the drop pods. Dreadnoughts and terminators break enemy formations while the thunderhawks drop off reinforcements. From small surgical strikes to an Exterminatus: when an enemy infestation must be eliminated for the sake of the Imperium, the super-soldiers in power-armor lead the way.
Annihilation: one of the three standard missions of the rulebook. The only one that does not use objectives. How do your Space Marine armies fare in this mission? How do you go about designing your army to be prepared for kill points? What are your tactics? Do you go for an all-out annihilation or do you pursue a more defensive approach, cautiously sniping off weak targets to always stay a kill point ahead?
I don't purposlly worry about kill points, although i may avoid items such as thunderfire cannons which IMO are designed to die. I will also probs run my tac squads as 10 man instead of 2-5, same with sternguard etc.etc.
I think the easiest way to perform tactics in Annihilation is to play it sort of like an objectives game, but concentrating more on holding the objectives all game rather than at the end. The "objectives" are tactically important places for you to be. Space marines are best when supporting each other so I make these imaginary objectives quite close together.
I have three ways of playing for different armies:
Versus horde: Stick the "objectives in the corners of my deployment zone and let them come into a semicircle of death/form a line. I also set a couple of the imaginary objectives in their zone so that I don't play too defensively.
Versus shooty: I find that a headlong dash at the weakest part of the gunline and then travelling along it works just fine
Versus MEQ/elite combat army: the trick here is to be everywhere, make sure you dominate the border so they move
a) towards one of your units
This means that they have to split their forces and each one get killed or turn their force towards one part (left, right or centre) and get shot in the sides/back, (This can also work against hordes but they can split their army better so it is not as effective).
Versus faster mech than us: stay put, i set up in a semicircle with the flate edge touching the board edge and politely ask him to try and pick off lone units. The speed they gain means they hold the board but in Annihilation that really doesn't matter as much in this scenario.
Finally, I read this in a previous topic that you should always kill:
1. their fast stuff- so they stop escaping and killing you
2. their weak stuff- easy KPs
3. The slow really hard stuff (just make sure you stop them killing all your guys)
Do these things in order.
Thats my opinion anyway.
- don't combat squad.
- don't spread out.
- focus all your fire on one unit at a time.
- remember that dedicated transports are worth KPs.
Annihilation is my least favourite game type and often the most lopsided. A player can have the upper hand tactically for the entire game and still lose because he just had more units than his enemy. Transports become a liability; deploying in combat squads is just asking to lose.
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Mr_Wayne: "Some people believe that the World Eaters do not field any ranged weaponry. Those people often die at a distance."
Unless I'm fighting Tau, I make a gunline and just pick off one unit at a time from the biggest threat down. I mainly play to give away not KP where possible, so my transports are used to shuttle weakened squads to the back line away from danger.
Kill points, the gravity center of annihilation, unlike objectives are not anchors on the tabletop. They are independent of the terrain and can be scored from a distance, thus evoking no inherent need for movement. Since a large part of good tactics revolves around proper movement, annihilation strips away a very interesting and powerful facet of the game and thus poses -compared to objective missions- a rather dull scenario for my taste. Yet a third of all (standard) games are annihilation, and so everyone should prepare for them.
I am not a fan of building lists with the mind focused on kill points, but it is a good idea to have them in mind. Since our units are expensive, resilient, and few, we hardly have problems with kill points anyway, though. We should be grateful for that.
Though objective placement needs not be worried about in annihilation, the option whether to going first or second requires a lot more thorough consideration.
To begin with, the one going first may choose deployment zones. Depending on the terrain and playstyles (whether you and/or your opponent play annihilation rather defensively) picking sides can be a minor to major advantage, especially if the playing field is rather asymmetric with one side loaded with cover and the other one not. This is especially important in regards terrain that blocks line of sight, where fragile targets ("easy kill points") can be completely hidden from enemy fire.
The usual considerations apply too, of course. Does the enemy have enough long-range firepower to threaten you and thus requires you to pop smoke before his turn? Do you need to kill off important enemy targets before they blow smoke / move flat out / turbo-boost / get fortune up / etc? Do you need to kill off a fragile but dangerous enemy unit before it can lay waste to your army? And so on.
Going second again provides the chance for last-minute play (if it's bottom of turn five and you're one kill point behind, you can opt to charge forward, exposing your army but gaining two kill points, hoping for the game to end). This is not to be underestimated! Of course it is dependent on luck, but playing a game based on dice we should be prepared for that. You are safe from retaliation with a 33% probability after turn five, 50% after turn six, and 100% after turn seven, while these numbers are all 0% for the player going first. And yet I believe that in this mission -unlike the objective missions- it is generally better to go first than second.
Defense vs. Offense
Whether to play this mission defensively or offensively depends on your army build. Generally speaking you should go with the playstyle you usually go with. But it should be noted that -since movement and battlefield domination is not an inherent requirement of annihilation- defensive playstyles perform above average in annihilation.
The key to the defensive playstyle is bringing to bear your powerful long-range weaponry on the opposing player's weak targets, while protecting your own weak targets from your opponent's fire. Missile launchers and lascannons -and maybe autocannons- are the winners of annihilation, the forgemaster's conversion beam is awesome too. They have the range and strength to score while endangering your own units as little as possible. Protecting your transports and other such fragile units is key. Reserve them, if you can. When they arrive, place one in front of the other and blow smoke with the one in front. One razorback/rhino can provide cover for itself and two others with this tactic. Next turn, put one of the others in front and blow smoke. And so on. You can also give cover to your transports with your tactical marines: line them up in front of your vehicle and they will cover 50% of the facing side. As others have noted: do not split your units into combat squads. Mind your target priority: shoot targets with the highest probability of scoring you a kill point from that shot. If two are equal, go for the one that poses the bigger threat to you. If you are ahead in score and have the possibility to pull back: do so. Especially pull back units that have already suffered a considerable amount of damage. Etc...
Though other armies often outshoot ours', the resiliency of our armies often makes up for that fact and ensures that the defensive playstyle in annihilation is still viable. And yet it requires at least a reasonable amount of powerful long-ranged weaponry. For some armies and/or against some opponents it may be a better idea to play offensively even in annihilation, and in this case you should play as you normally would, but without starting to worry about objectives on turn four plus. If you are confident that you can table your opponent (however high your own losses will be) then you should even disregard the rule of thumb about combat squads and use them nonetheless, maximizing your army's efficiency. Remember that the number of kill points scored on each side is meaningless if one enemy has actually been annihilated in the literal sense.
This tactic is the answer to so many things these days. In annihilation it is very effective too. Whether you are going first or second: it practically guarantees you first shot (and hopefully first blood), while you will also in any case see where you opponent deployed his units, and you will have a chance bringing yours onto the board in positions where you can draw line of sight to your opponent's units and maybe even deny cover. In spearhead deployment this is especially useful, since even vindicators may well be able to hit something 30" from the board edge on the turn they arrive, if you choose to deploy your vindicator on the board half opposite to your opponent's table quarter.
This tactic is especially suitable for fragile army builds, effectively shortening the game by at least one turn, thus reducing the amount of punishment your army is forced to take. If you manage to go second (which in this case is very, very advisable, even in annihilation) you can strip another turn of shooting off your opponent. Of course this is of little use if your firepower is of a stationary nature, because in this case you yourself will lose the same amount of turns as your opponent.
My bikes and speeders army is very fragile and plays rather defensively in every type of mission. I win objective missions by last-minute grabbing/contesting, and I win annihilation by carefully picking my targets and denying mine to the enemy, staying ahead in score as far as I can without risking too much. Since I am fast and mobile I tend to resort to the tactic of reserving everything.
I try to get hold of a table side where there is 2"+ high cover I can place my typhoon speeders behind. They are the working horse of my annihilation games, scoring kill points easily with massed krak missile fire. Since I usually use squadrons of two and have them sit in cover (and -depending on the exact nature of the cover- may also be able to block a good deal of line of sight to them) and choose where they come onto the board from reserves, I usually have little trouble keeping them alive. It's harder to kill them in this constellation as one might think, because the allocation of hits usually allows to keep at least one speeder from being wrecked, thus denying a kill point. (Example: the squadron suffers three penetrating and two glancing hits. The penetrating hits are allocated on one target, the glancing hits on the other. Cover saves one of the glancing hits, the other one destroys a weapon. The second speeder is wrecked. This has been quite bad luck with the dice so far, but still no kill point lost. The surviving speeder now moves 24" away to avoid further harassment.) Apart from my speeders I use my attack bikes in annihilation, because they too have the range to shoot at the enemy while sitting back. The entire bike squadron stays in cover, with the exception of the attack bikes. These use their heavy bolters to mow down enemy infantry from afar.
Once the enemy advances in order to catch up on kill points, I either disengage my entire army or I engage the advancing units if I can gain superiority. If -at any point during the game- I am 2-3 kill points ahead without being in danger of losing severl kill points quickly (like having one bike squad reduced to a single model, another to only two models left, while there is also one damage landspeeder squadron), I tend to disengage and stay out of any further skirmishes if they are avoidable.