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 Mastering the Assault Phase

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PostSubject: Mastering the Assault Phase   Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:55 pm

40K: Mastering The Assault Phase

Posted by Fritz at Friday, March 18, 2011

Courtesy of BoLS

When we look at the three phases of the game- movement, shooting, and assaulting, the third phase of assaulting can be argued to be the most powerful in terms of model killing potential. Lets take a detailed look.

Set up correctly you can wipe out multiple units at the same time, but with this ability comes a price, a price in skill to set it up, and punishment if you screw it up and get caught out in the open. In this week’s article we are going to look at how to set up an assault, and more importantly how to survive one from the point of view of the attacker.

Delivery System.

Not all assault troops are assault troops, and here is what I mean by that. You can be geared up for the assault, but if you don’t have a way to get directly into your opponent’s ranks you are setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Let’s look at two assault units from the Space Marine perspective - Assault Marines and Assault Terminators.

In the case of Assault Marines you have a group of fast moving marines that have a range of 13”-18” of movement a turn, along with a good number of base attacks, and power weapon upgrades backed by a 3+ save. If we are talking about generic Assault Marines and not Blood Angels using DOA, then what is the delivery system for these guys? Rocket pack across the table? Deepstrike? Both are going to leave you very vulnerable on the way in even if you hide behind terrain or other vehicles to leapfrog over and in. In this case it is better to use the Assault Marines as a counter attack unit - hanging back in your deployment zone and waiting for your opponent to come to you and then moving out and striking, think interceptors.

With the Assault Terminators we can load these guys into a Land Raider, AV 14, smoke launchers, and a machine spirit to deliver them right into the heart of the opponent with a threat range of around 20”- moving 12”, getting out 2”, and then assaulting 6”. With a forward deployment and a turn of movement, you can be into your opponent on turn two. This is an example of having a delivery system for your assault troops to make sure they get there, the Stormraven is another example.

Let’s look at the same idea from the xeno perspective regarding Genestealers-ultimate shock troops? Hardly. With no shooting attacks and no save against even bolters there is no way your brood of ‘stealers is going to make it across the table, and even infiltrating them will get them shot up. From the assault army perspective they are a fail unless you outflank them, but even here if your opponent castles in the center of the table you are going to get shot up. Save the Genestealers as a distraction unit or counter assault unit like the assault marines from before. Now on the other hand Ymgarl Genestealers are the ultimate assault shock troops- with their ability to go dormant and appear out of terrain, move, run, and then fleet assault they have the ability to appear in your opponent’s ranks untouched and wreck face- the terrain itself becomes the delivery system. But that’s not to say you can’t walk across the table either in the right circumstances.

Harlequins work on foot as a delivery system because of the Shadowseer’s veil of tears ability- you can’t target her unit from more than 24” out, with the average being 18”, and by then, if done correctly the clowns are assaulting you with their ability to completely ignore terrain, move, run, and fleet assault.



So now you have your assault unit(s), and delivery system so the next point to cover is actually getting across the table while making sure you have a target to assault when you get there. If only it was as easy as just driving across the table with that Land Raider…

First things first before we get to the glory, if you have some major assault elements in your army you have to be setting things up for them from the start of the game when laying down objectives or picking table sides for deployment. With objectives you want to do your best with the number that you can place to cluster them up. Many players like to camp on objectives from the start of the game and this makes a nice grouped target for your assault units to eventually hit. (Counter: Remember you don’t have to be on objectives till turn 5+ so stay away yet in range, and then move out later in the game.) When picking table sides give your opponent the side with more “terrain” so that when you arrive in their ranks and wipe out a unit, you can consolidate into terrain to get cover saves before launching the next assault. In an assault themed army you will be going to your opponent so having all the terrain, or choice terrain, on your side won’t make a difference since you won’t be using it.

Now with your assault units down and moving out you need two other elements in your list to give your assault force the best odds possible for when they hit. The first is some long range support whose job is to open up vehicles and dump their guys out so you have something to assault in addition to swatting away any speedbumps, vehicles, of units that your opponent might try to use to block/slow down your incoming assaulters. Many times you can find these units in the heavy support section of your codex. The final element is a distraction unit to occupy your opponent at close range, something they have to deal with on turn one, focusing less of their tabletop assets on your incoming assaulters. You can always tell a good assault based army if they have this, think of it as a tell if they really are serious about being aggressive with their assault units.

You need something that can infiltrate into a key position in your opponent’s deployment zone, something that is the perfect balance of “immediate threat” and expendable points that they have to deal with. Going back to Space Marines a small unit of scouts with a missile launcher and camo cloaks works wonders. Infiltrate into terrain to the side of your opponent’s deployment zone to line up side armor shots and be ready to go to ground for the 2+ save if needed to keep them alive as long as you can. From the xeno perspective one or two groups of infiltrated Genestealers placed in terrain works wonders.

Rumbling forward the Legion's Land Raider "Victus" accelerated to its top speed belching out blessed machine smoke as the Praetorian Guard terminators inside prepared to disembark when the order was given. Watching the internal vox screens inside the tank their enemy quickly came into view.

From the ruins of a block of buildings sprung forth a horde of mutant humans and mutie altered traitor space marines- some still wearing their remains of their armor while others were little more than twisted humanoid abominations.

"We are outnumbered four to one! Prepare to disembark! Prepare for glory!" ordered the terminator Centurion as the squad switched on their lightning claw and storm hammer generators.

Crashing right into the heart of the mutant traitors the land raider ground to a halt as the assault ramp dropped and the terminators inside poured out. Slashing with lighting claws and crushing with thunder hammers the Praetorians downed dozen of the mutant marines as the traitors ranks broke and they began to fall back.

"Where is your commander?" asked the terminator Centurion as a plasma gun wielding mutant marine responded with a gurgled scream. Casting his defiled body down with a stroke of a thunder hammer the traitor’s body began to enlarge before bursting open in a shower of puss and gore.

Emerging from the warp through the mutant demon vessel a terrifying female demon with now directly in the ranks of the Praetorian Guard terminators…




So now you are at the moment of glory having braved it across the battlefield, distracted and harassed your opponent sweeping aside their feeble resistance, time to pile into the assault and cut them down…maybe…maybe not.

A well done assault should not only kill multiple units if it can, but it should at least be around for a turn or two “earning” its points or at the very least keeping your opponent busy so the rest of your army can accomplish the mission objectives that you need to win the game.

Before you pile out of that Land Raider take a look around at the opportunities and threats around you. Sometimes you don’t want to wipe out the unit in front of you, especially if your opponent is putting it out there to sacrifice- you hit said unit, wipe it out, and then have your assaulters wiped out in return. You traded 1 for 1 which isn’t good, aim to trade 2 or 3 to 1. In this scenario you have to judge the hitting power of your assault unit based on what you are going up against. This is part science and part gamble so there are no hard fast rules. Let’s look at the example of a group of harlequins hitting a full space marine tactical squad. If I hit the marine squad with doom from a Farseer, fire off some shuriken and fusion pistol shots on the way in and then assault with all my clowns the marines are going to go poof! Before they can even strike back. Then what?

I’m vulnerable and out in the open in my opponent’s turn. In the case of the marines I wouldn’t want to doom ahead of time so I cause less wounds, will be locked and protected in the assault phase, finish them off in my opponent’s phase and then be back for a fresh assault on my phase. Do what you have to do so you never “complete” an assault in your own phase- always set things up as best you can so the unit your are engaged with goes down in your opponent’s turn.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to always go forward to assault- back to the Harlequin example. Let’s say I’m assaulting something really weak, where even the unjuiced clowns will down them. I use the movement phase to get into assault range, and then use the run phase to actually move some of my models back and to the sides out of assault range. This way when I charge my lead model can make base contact, and when the defenders react with their 6” move and get base to base not all of my models will be able to attack. Throwing up less attacks I kill less, and hopefully lock in for that turn.


On the opposite end when you are preparing for an assault you are looking for those opportunities to multi-assault and wipe out multiple units- and this is where the true power of the assault phase comes in, especially with big, hard to kill units- either through forced additional wound allocation or a sweeping advance.

Assault Terminators pile out of the Land Raider right in front of a group of gaunts and a Trygon. Hit the Trygon with one terminator and throw the rest into the gaunts. Deal a massive amount of wounds on the gaunts, focus everything on them since they are easy to kill for morale modifiers and forget the big bug. Take a few wounds back and maybe a loss or two, but win the assault by 5-10 wounds. More gaunts die and now the Trygon has to make X number of saves due to being fearless. Let the gaunts “kill” the Trygon. Against massive blocks of infantry don’t split your attacks on both- throw the majority on the “weaker” unit, win the assault, and force a leadership or wounds on both units to break them.


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PostSubject: Re: Mastering the Assault Phase   Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:05 pm

Thanks Mack, good stuff!

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