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Tactics for Dummies

by Avian

Following is a short list of hopefully not too complicated tactics which I would like to share with you. I like to hope that they are reasonably intelligent, not too obvious and I believe that none of them rely on your opponent being an idiot to work.



Character tactics

Charge tactics

War machine tactics


Character tactics


Unit hopping

This tactic is worth mentioning, because people will often at some level be aware that it is possible, yet fail to see the advantages. Unit hopping involves moving your characters from unit to unit, depending on where they might be most useful. Quite often do I see people letting characters hang around in units that are either clearly not going to see much action, or who are soon to see more action more than they can handle. In these cases the player should get his characters out of the unit they are in and either into a better unit or let them hang around on his own.

Obviously, the faster the character, the easier this is to achieve, thus it is can often be a very good idea to give your character steeds, since in 7th edition this always increases their speed. This is in contrast to 6th edition, where a character on foot could not be prevented from marching and therefore might end up going faster than a charater on a steed, if the steed's movement was less than twice of the character (an M7 boar compared to an M4 orc, for example). For those characters with no options for mounts, Dwarfs, Night Goblins and Skaven, the possibilities for unit hopping is naturally more limited. Even M3 Dwarf characters should not feel stuck in the unit you deploy them in, though, and this little tactic can go quite some way in helping the lack of mobility the Dwarf army tends to suffer from.

Reasons to leave unit tend to be that the unit will soon be shot to pieces or charged by something nasty. The last does not neccesarily include something that is probably going to break the unit, it also includes hit squads which hope to take out the character, possibly sacrificing themselves in the process. Examples of this include fast cavalry units and flyers, who will often be fast enough to get away even if they break and run. If you see such a unit lining up against the infantry unit containing your fragile Wizard, it might be a good idea to hop into another unit instead.

I'm finding this tactic particularly useful in my Ogre army, where units are likely to be small, and the presence of a character or two can go a long way towards protecting the unit from missile-induced Panic tests. The characters start the battle with the front line units to make them more difficult to Panic before shifting back as the units get depleted.


Solo charging

One of my favourite tactics, and also one that is easier for characters with good mobility. It involves a character making a solo charge out of the unit he is with while the unit does not charge. This will often come as a surprise for players who have aligned their unit so that your unit is blocked from moving forward or prevented from marching while at the same time the enemy unit is positioned so that you cannot charge them or so that charging will lead to your unit getting into a dangerour position. Other examples involve characters charging out of their unit against more distant targets (again, mounted characters are good for this) or through gaps that are too small for their unit.

This little tactic may turn out to be quite useful in 7th edition, where the opportunities for who you can redirect your charge against is much more limited than in 6th edition, leading units to be locked in if you cannot break the block, for example by a single charge.

Obviously, there are quite a few units out there you do not want your character fighting all by himself, but single flyers (Great Eagles, etc.) or depleted fast cavalry units are often used to annoy and block enemy units and most fighter characters should be able to handle them. Either the enemy stands and dies or it flees, in any case your unit is now free to move.

The risk of this tactic is that your character may find himself stranded and liable to getting shot up or charged. This is something you have to take into account and ways of dealing with this might include moving other friendly units to block lines of sight to him during your remaining moves phase. Another risk is getting stuck against an enemy that doesn't run away or in a combat he's losing, though happily the risks in the latter case is reduced in 7th edition, since the enemy cannot lap around your character anymore.



Disregarding the heroic aspect of challenges for a moment, this little bit will only deal with how to get the most out of the challenge rule. It is worth mentioning right at the start that challenges are much better for the puny than the mighty, disregarding specific items that make the bearer better in a challenge. A mighty fighter lord is much more happy slaughtering enemy rank and file than he is bogged down in a challenge against a measly champion.
Here are some uses for the challenge rule:

Limit the number of attacks coming your way: Dead simple - in a challenge only the other guy will be attacking you, instead of all enemies in base contact with you. Thus, if the other guy has a champion and two other guys in base contact with your fragile character, issue a challenge. He'll either accept with his champion or he'll decline and you can send his champion to the rear ranks - either way your Wizard or other non-combat character will face fewer attacks.
A well armoured character, on the other hand, is not too worried about these things and a couple of rank and file attacks more or less doesn't actually matter.
Note that you should obviously not do this if this gives your opponent the chance to accept the challenge with some other character not previously in base contact with your Wizard (remember that only characters and champions in base contact with an enemy can issue or accept challenges).

Limit the number of attacks against someone else: One of the most popular reasons to buy a champion is to have him act as a bodyguard for another character, often a Wizard, making sure that the VIP is not mauled by some nasty combat character. If the champion can issue a challenge and the opponent has no champion of his own to accept it with instead, he'll probably end up butchering your champion instead of your Wizard.

Avoid the situation I have just described: The second most popular reason for buying a champion is to stop the opponet pulling the above trick on you. By having a champion of your own, you can avoid your combat character getting into an unwanted challenge, letting you kill whoever you want.

Preserve unit strength and ranks: If you are faced with really nasty combat character that is going to slaughter quite a few of your guys and you only have a champion and rank and file to face him with, challenge. The champion will probably get slaughtered and the nasty enemy is going to rack up a nice overkill bonus, but fewer of your guys die, which preserves unit strength and rank bonus for longer. Sure, you get to throw fewer attacks against the enemy, but most of the time troopers are not going to achieve much against combat characters.
Note that there are some magic items out there that have an additional effect in challenges (a lot of bretonnian items, the ogre Tenderizer, etc.), in which case challenging might be suicidal (more than usual, that is...).

Neutralise close combat characters: This is a bit like the above, except that you challenge a nasty combat character with your own resilient character. He doesn't have to be all that dangerous in close combat himself, the important thing is to limit the damage the opponent can do. Personally I am quite fond of issuing challenges against enemy champions with my Ogre Butcher. As a Wizard character, you might think that he is fragile, but with Toughness 5 and the ability to heal himself, a Butcher can go toe to toe (and belly to head) with most champions and even a lot of fighter heroes out there. It is after all, often easier to boost the resilience of a character than that of a unit.

A little trick: Kill the enemy champion. Having a champion at your side greatly increases your options and thus a cunning player should endeavour to kill enemy champions who are liable to step forward suicidally at inconvenient moments. Some items and spells allow you to single out specific enemies at a range and these are great for this purpose. Similarly, you should generally throw an attack or two against enemy champions when you have the chance. Champions are not usually any more difficult to kill than rank and file models and there is really no reason not to splat them.


Charge tactics

This section deal with tactics in a charge and also how to defeat these.


Countering the bait and flee

The bait and flee tactic is one of the oldest of the book - you place a bait unit in front of an enemy unit, blocking its path. If the enemy unit charges, the bait unit flees and the chargers end up somewhere they don't want to be, for example somewhere they'll get charged in return. If the enemy unit doesn't want to charge, they'll either have to stay where they are or spend a lot of time manoeuvering around the bait unit. The bait and flee tactic works best against armies with one or a few heavy hitters and not much in the way of support, for example a single big unit of knights and no fast cavalry. One of my most successful combos was a unit of Goblin Wolf Riders, a Wolf Chariot and a Spear Chukka working together to prevent enemies from moving up my flank. Here are some ways of preventing the bait and flee:

Better deployment: By not deploying your big, nasty unit right away, you make it more difficult for the opponent to set up a bait and flee situation. Keep your options open for longer and it will be more difficult to block you.

Shoot the bait: It can often be very obvious which unit the opponent intends to use for baiting (fast cavalry are very good at this) and these should be a priority target for missile fire and spells from the word go. Considering that bait units are seldom very resilient, they should die easily enough. Needless to say, you need some firepower to achieve this, though happily there are no armies out there that does not have some ranged capabilities, either mundane or magical.

Solo charges: This is explained above and involves a character in the unit charging the bait on his own, giving his unit a chance to move freely. Though risky, it is my experience that not many players expect this tactic and for this reason it can work very well.

Charge with something else: Another approach that also involves a more balanced approach to army selection. Instead of charging with the blocked unit, you charge with a supporting unit instead. It is important here that the supporting unit is not placed so that if the bait flees, they will be blocking your main unit instead. For this reason, having infantry charge the bait can be an advantage, since a failed charge move will not see them moving forward very far. Or you could use a flying unit, which will probably move far enough to get completely out of the way. Another good point about this tactic is that it may make the bait unit flee in a direction it did not expect and thus cause confusion and the odd Panic test on its own side.
You have to take into account that the bait unit might decide to stand its ground when charged by your support unit, which will at least mean that the bait unit should get destroyed even if your main unit stays blocked in for another turn.

The bait and switch: Of course, you may decide to take the bait and then set up other units to support you so that if the enemy counter charging unit decides to charge, you will flee with your unit and then he'll be the one in a nasty position instead. I have experienced battles where increasingly nasty units from either side bait the enemy until one player decides that fleeing would be too risky and takes the charge.

Magical movement: This is a rather specialised tactic and relies on you having some magical means at moving your unit at your disposal. After you charge with your main unit (or your supporting unit), you employ spells such as the Wolf Hunts or the Incantation of Urgency to move your unit again, into a better position.


War machine tactics


Moving war machines

Not being able to move and fire, a war machine will not often all that much. However, sometimes a war machine will be unable to fire for some reason - maybe it has nothing worthwhile to shoot at, or a Misfire result prevents it from firing. In these cases I always check to see if there is any point in moving my war machine - maybe it will have a better target in sight next turn? Other cases include when the war machine is about to get charged. Given that most war machine crew are not going to defeat their enemies in close combat, it might be worth moving the war machine this turn, possibly putting it outside the enemy unit's charge range or line of sight. After all, if a unit of skirmishers are closing in on your Spear Chukka, blocking your line of sight to anything else, there is little point in trying to take out the skirmishers with the Chukka.

The downside of this tactic is that war machines generally don't move that far, being pushed around by infantry models and being forbidden from marching, in addition to being reduced in movement in proportion to the loss of crew. However, that might be good enough.


Basic range estimation for war machines

There are many ways to improve your guessed ranges for war machines, the most obvious being to remember how far you guessed last turn and to correct for that. Against targets that don't move around very much, this should rapidly lead to very accurate guesses. When firing directly across the table, it is also not too difficult to guess the distance. If you know the distance from your war machine to your own table edge (knowing how big your war machine is makes this easier) and from the target to the opposite table edge, you can subtract these from the width of the table (typically 48") to find the distance to the target. Thus, if you are firing from a point 6" from your table edge against a point 8" from the opposite table edge, the distance to the target will be 34".

When firing more diagonally, it can be useful to remember that for small angles, the distance will not be all that different. For example, if you are firing at a target from a 30 degree angle, the distance will only be 15% longer than if you fired straight ahead (i.e. 39" rather than 34" for the example above).

Another good trick is to use the size of nearby units as a comparison. Thus, if there is a 6-deep unit of 25 mm bases nearby, you'll know that this unit is pretty much exactly 6" and that should help your guess. Yet another trick is to use other things you know the size of. For example, I know that if I spread my fingers as wide as I can, the distance between the tip of my thumb to the tip of my middle finger is slightly more than 8". I tend look at the table and imagine that I place my hand on it. If I believe there is room for my hand between two units, then that distance must be more than 8".
Warning! Actually placing body parts on the table as an aid to guessing is frowned upon pretty much everywhere.

A little trick: I spotted this little loophole the first time I read the 7th edition rulebook. Now, all stone thrower type war machines have a minimum guess range of 12", but you can choose for yourself where this distance is measured from, as long as you consistenty measure from that spot. Thus, by choosing a spot far back on the machine (such as the stone to be thrown) you can effectively reduce the minimum guess to something like 8 or 9". True, your maximum guess distance will be reduced by the same distance as the minimum range, so you have to weigh the pros and cons - if the enemy is likely to come towards you, reducing your minimum guess range will probably be more important than the maximum guess range.


How far away to aim your cannons?

A good rule of thumb is that the narrower the target, the further away you will want to aim. For targets less than 2" across you will want to aim a little less than 10" away, for example, since that will give you a hit two thirds of the time. Obviously, if you guess very close, then there is a greater chance of the ball landing behind the target, not a good thing unless you have a very large target. On the other hand, if you guess far in front of the target, then the bounce path of the ball will not extend very far beyond the target point. This is illustrated by the table below:

Width of the target Optimal distance to target
Less than 2" 10"
2 to 4" 8"
4 to 6" 6"
6 to 8" 4"
8 to 10" 2"
10" or more 0"


Single bolt or volley with your repeater bolt throwers?

High and Dark Elf players have this little question to ponder, while the rest of us only have the option of a single bolt, if we have bolt throwers at all. Here is the answer.

Ranks needed in the enemy unit (of 1 Wound models) for single bolts to pay off:

  1+ saves 2+ saves 3+ saves or worse
Toughness 3 2 or more 4 or more Never
Toughness 4 2 or more 3 or more Never

Thus you can see that against enemies with 1+ armour saves, it's better with a volley if the enemy formation is only 1 rank deep, while a single bolt is better if the formation is two ranks or more deep. Against enemies with 3+ saves or worse, you always want to fire a volley of six bolts.

Against targets with multiple wounds, your best bet is as follows:

  T3 T4 T5 T6
No save Volley Volley Volley Even
6+ saves Volley Volley Volley Even
5+ saves Volley Volley Volley Even
4+ saves Volley Volley Volley Single
3+ saves Volley Volley Even Single
2+ saves Volley Single Single Single
1+ save Single Single Single Single

Again we see that the volley option is generally your best bet, with the single bolt being better only against targets with very good armour saves. 


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