Battlefield Basics: Tips and Tricks

As I’ve perused the various Warhammer 40k blogs out there, I’ve seen numerous posts regarding how to build an army list and several about what I would call “macro” tactics, i.e. baiting, pincer movements, specific deployment types, etc. However, I haven’t seen any (not to say that they’re not out there) that deal with the minutiae of the tabletop battlefield, those little things you have discovered over the course of months, years, or dare I say decades of playing. Eventually we all learn a number of tricks or are shown them by our fellow hobbyists who don’t covet their “secrets” like Smeagol, but wouldn’t it be nice to speed up that process. I also thought it might be nice to have list of common mistakes made by new players or those too stuck in their ways to change.

I know that much of this will be rudimentary and bland to some of your fine 40k palettes, but I am hoping to build a list of both “Woohoos” and “Dohs!” Please share what you know, no matter how simple (though let’s avoid any smarmy “Shoot the other guys” comments if we could), and hopefully we’ll all learn a little something and maybe help improve our competition by aiding its learning curve.


1. Whenever you believe you are going to be charged on the opponent’s next turn, position any special character you might have behind a line of your regular troops. Essentially, you want to have him in a position where the charging unit cannot come into base-to-base contact with him. Thus, as you pile-in, you will get to dictate where he attacks and by whom he is attacked. This can help you avoid annoying instant deaths caused by powerfists/claws or allow you to take out the opponent’s special characters.

2. Also, when charging, make sure that you tie up the powerfist/claw model with a regular trooper so that your opponent can’t move the model into b-to-b with your special character.

3. The converse of both is also true. When charging make sure that your powerfist/claw gets into b-to-b with enemy special characters or that you hide it so that you can get there on the pile-in.

4. I stole this one from WildEyedJester because he constantly annoys me with it. After they have unloaded troops or on their way to do so, use transports to chase your opponent’s fleeing units off the board. Since units cannot even test to rally if there is an opposing unit within 6 inches, they will just keep running, no matter how good their Leadership. This works especially well against Space Marines who will almost always rally if given a chance. I’ve seen my Wolf Lord prance off the board after one bad Ld roll enough times to know just how effective and frustrating this can be.

5. Against Deep Striking armies (Daemons, drop pod SM, etc.) go second if given the option. If you go first, you will have nothing to shoot at on your first turn, and your opponent will get that all-important last chance to push for objectives, quarters, etc. You might lose a bit when your opponent arrives, but that was going to happen anyway. Now, you have the last chance to push or to focus fire for kill points.

6. Lastly and most common, when you are going to get assaulted and your opponent chooses to shoot you first, remove those models closest to the opponent’s assaulting unit in order to deny the charge. Of course, this only works if your opponent is at the edge of his charge range. However, in cover, this can be incredibly valuable due to difficult terrain rolls. Few things are more satisfying than shooting a unit of Khorne Berzerkers to bits because your opponent rolled a 4 instead of a 5. Furthermore, think about what models you have at the outer edges of your unit’s position. Avoid having special weapons or characters in these places because you will be reluctant to remove them in order to deny the charge.


1. If you run a heavily mechanized list, space your tanks so that you do not prevent some from moving forward and others from shooting if your foreward-most tanks are taken out or immobilized. I frequently use Rhinos to give my Land Raider a cover save, but I’ve had them immobilized by early shots and then had trouble maneuvering the LR effectively. Also, losing a Predator shot because there’s an immobilized or stunned Rhino blocking a sponson is frustrating. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but try to make sure that you have enough space to maneuver around your forward tanks or you might find your 300 point unit stuck firmly in your deployment zone.

2. When deploying tanks against armies with Monstrous Creatures or Dreadnoughts make sure that you have your tanks spaced in such a way as to prevent the MCs and/or Dreads from attacking 2 at once. Tanks go away very quickly if you make this error, especially if the MC has wings.

Well, that’s what I have for now. Please leave your own little tidbits and comment if you feel I’m wrong on anything. Later, Monkey.