The value of good deployment varies depending on the two armies that fight. If you have a slow, static army, then good deployment is very important, because you will have a limited ability to correct your positions once the game begins. If, on the other hand, you have a fast, mobile army, then deployment is less critical as you can more easily rectify your mistakes in your deployment. This article starts by describing two factors that should have a great impact on your deployment, namely the terrain on the table and the opposing army, continues by listing some tactics commonly used when deploying and finally gives examples of how my own armies tend to deploy.
Terrain (freely after Sun Zi)
- Accessible ground
- Entangling ground
- Temporizing ground
- Narrow passes
- Precipitous heights
- Positions at a great distance from the enemy
It takes two to win a fight
- Concentration of force
- "Dear enemy war machine crews: Please shoot my precious unit"
- Enemy units that are out of position should stay that way
- A roadbloack of your own devising
- Routing before you have had your first turn
- Setting up in the hope of getting the first turn
Examples of deployments
Terrain (freely after Sun Zi)
I normally avoid references to literary works on real-world warfare, because so little of it actually has any relevance in a game like Warhammer, which is certainly not an accurate simulation of warfare. However, chapter ten of the Art of War by Sun Zi (often called Sun Tzu) actually has some parts that are useful in the game. This section will not deal with the placing of terrain to get an advantage, because quite frankly I loathe the concept and I will not fight a battle where either player has had any influence on the terrain. I firmly believe that terrain should either be generated randomly or placed by a neutral third party. Thus the following assumes that the terrain is already given. Sun Zi divides terrain into different types (not directly corresponding to types of terrain features used in the game) and it is important to understand that a battlefield may contain several different kinds of terrain and that different units may experience terrain differently. Example: One of my Wood Elf-playing friends tried to claim that his army interacted with the terrain. I replied that this was nonsense and all his Wood Elves really did was ignore the terrain. It is a sad fact that the terrain rules in Warhammer are rubbish and as a consequence units will either treat the terrain as effectively open or effectively impassable. Quite why it is that units all seem to either suffer a ridiculous penalty for crossing terrain or not penalty at all I do not know, but I consider the terrain rules to be amongst the weakest parts of the Warhammer rules set (alongside the fleeing rules). But no matter, open and impassable terrain can both be used to your advantage.
Masta Sun Zi sez: We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit: Accessible ground; entangling ground; temporizing ground; narrow passes; precipitous heights; positions at a great distance from the enemy.
Masta Sun Zi sez: Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible. With regards to ground of this nature, be before the enemy in occupying the raised and sunny spots, and carefully guard your lines of supplies. Then you will be able to fight with advantage.
In Warhammer terms, large areas of battlefield which mainly consists of open terrain is accessible and favours armies where the units must work together to defeat the enemy. This includes horde armies like Orcs & Goblins and Skaven, but also armies like the Empire, which rely on weakening the enemy army with missile fire before engaging in close combat. If you have an army that favours accessible ground, then your units should be set up ready to support each other. Supporting infantry units should be placed in between the main fighting units, ready to threaten the flanks of enemy units that engage your main units but fail to break them, supporting cavalry units should be ready to encircle the enemy army and supporting missile units and war machines should be placed where they have line of sight to enemy units. This is the equivalent of Sun Zi's "raised and sunny spots".
In accessible ground, it is important to avoid being surrounded, which gives the enemy army a chance to charge your units in the flank or rear, place his units where your fleeing units will run into them and be destroyed or attack your weaker support units. Anchoring one or both flanks in difficult terrain or against the edge of the table will work, or else you can deploy your own support units to counter any enemies who try to outflank you. I am particularly fond of using a bolt thrower and a unit of Goblin Wolf Riders from stopping enemy knights from rolling up my flank. The knights must manoeuvre carefully to avoid being shot in the flank by the bolt thrower and will find it hard to get around the diverting Wolf Riders unsupported. If the enemy uses fast cavalry of his own on the flanks, then missile units and your own fast cavalry armed with missile weapons can be used to counter this. This is the equivalent of carefully guarding your supply lines.
Masta Sun Zi sez: Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called entangling. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue.
One of the most effective ways of dealing with very powerful enemy units is to lure them out of position and leave them stranded in a position where they can do little. What you are really doing with a tactic like this is to reduce the effective size of the enemy army. If your opponent has a 400-point unit with a 300-point character in it and you can use a 70-point fast cavalry unit to have them do nothing the entire battle, then he is effectively fighting with 630 points less than you do. This is generally done in one of two ways in the game: Firstly by tricking the enemy unit to charge one of your support units in such a way that they end up in difficult terrain, from which they will need several turns to disentangle themselves. The terrain rules in Warhammer are not particularly realistic and and in difficult terrain a unit has its movement halved and cannot march, which means that they move at a quarter of their normal marching speed. Obviously this works better against units that must charge if able to and worse against units that can move through terrain with no penalty.
The second way of entangling an opposing unit is to trick your opponent into deploying his unit in a position where he thinks they will be able to very well but where in reality they will achieve little or nothing at all. If you have more units than the opponent, then he will probably have to start deploying his important units while you are still only deploying support units. I like to use situations like this to leave nasty enemy units stranded by deploying a few units in one part of the battlefield in such a way as to give the impression that I will later deploy several important units there as well, but then deploying all my important units somewhere else. His big, nasty units will have little to do and should he try to return to the main bulk of his army, my units deployed there will divert and delay him to prevent this. Often my diversionary units will move boldly forward at first and if my opponent takes the bait and moves after them instead of trying to rejoin his main force, the diversionary units will withdraw. My units are "prepared for his coming" and if the enemy unit cannot defeat them quickly it will often find itself unable to achieve anything at all. This tactic works particularly well against slow units who will often need half a battle or more to recover from being in an entangled position.
Masta Sun Zi sez: When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporizing ground. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.
When facing an army similar to yours, it is very easy to end up in a stand off, where the first player that makes a move loses. Examples of this can be two handgunner units with 24" range, deployed just out of range of each other at the beginning of the game. Whichever unit moves first forward cannot shoot, but will instead get shot at in return by the enemy unit. Similarly, when both players have combat units placed so that if either unit charges but does not break the enemy, the will get charged in return, then you will often get a stand off if the units involved are fairly equal. Often situations like this end with one player saying "What the hell!", advancing and coming off worse. Not always, but quite often, if the two sides are more or less equal.
When deploying, you will want to avoid these situations, unless your think your opponent is foolish and will advance first. Traps in Warhammer are usually quite easy to spot, since both players have a full view of the battlefield and not many players will knowingly fall for them. Stalemates are not productive and there is seldom any point in holding up 700 points of the enemy army with 700 points of your own. What you will instead be aiming for is to destroy or hold up a large portion of the enemy army with a smaller portion of your own. Be wary of deploying too many units guarding a select part of the battlefield unless you think you can bring them round to a better position if the enemy does not foolishly do what you expect him to do.
Masta Sun Zi sez: With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let them be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned.
As anyone who has seen the movie "300" will know, bottlenecks in the terrain favours nasty units that can deal with their opponents one on one. Weaker units will usually have to gang up on enemy units to defeat them and if denied that possibility, they don't have much chance. If you have units that fight better on their own than the opponent's does, then you will tend to favour terrain with narrow paths of advance. In this regard it is useful to bring up one commonly occurring situation, where terrain is placed so that units advancing from one side of the table will funnel into a narrower area while troops advancing from the other side of the table can spread out as they move forward. This can be seen as a variant of the narrow pass - a large army funneled together will find that often units block each other's way and it is difficult to concentrate enough force to defeat enemy units. Therefore, with a large army it will often be an advantage to choose the most narrow side to deploy on, if given the choice and playing against a more elite army. Your units will have to bunch up more initially, but you should quickly be able to spread out.
Masta Sun Zi sez: With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away.
Some armies, notably Dwarfs and quite a few Empire players, like to deploy their army around a suitable hill in their deployment zone. They will try to shoot up anything that approaches and then finish off anything that survives with their close combat units. Dwarfs have only one real disadvantage - their low mobility - and that matters not if the enemy army comes to them. One very simple approach when facing armies using this ploy is to simply not advance. Both Dwarfs and Empire have only a few things that can do damage from more than 24" away and very few things that can move and fire. Place your vulnerable and expensive units far away or behind terrain, take some precautions against Panic and otherwise do nothing for most of the game. Rush out in the last turn or so to claim or contest all table quarters and you should get a draw at worst. It might not be a terribly exciting battle, but that is really your opponent's fault. Sometimes a careless opponent will also place one or more units unprotected away from the others, in which case these should of course be mobbed and made to regret it.
Alternatively, you can go for the more risky but possibly more rewarding route and try to outmanoeuvre the enemy. In doing so, there are two main considerations you need to make: Firstly, you want an approach route that is shielded by terrain as much as practically possible. It is more difficult to protect yourself from missile fire coming from a hill than against that which comes from units on the ground, but it is not impossible by any means. See page 9 of the rulebook for more details. Secondly, you want to stay out of the fire of missile units, such as handgunners and crossbowmen. As the most powerful missile units tend to only be able to fire in their 90 degree front arc and cannot move and fire, it is often possible to outmanoeuvre them by moving up on their flanks. Ideally you would like to stay out of the fire of war machines as well, though they can fire all round and usually only need a very narrow line of fire, so that is often not possible. Remember though that war machines will the block line of sight for other war machines if they are in the way, even if they are both on the same hill.
Positions at a great distance from the enemy
Masta Sun Zi sez: If you are situated at a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the two armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, and fighting will be to your disadvantage.
In Warhammer, distance has different meaning for different armies and different units. A unit of Wood Elf Wild Riders that has a single elf poking his nose out from behind a wood a foot and a half away from your flank is within striking distance, while a Dwarf unit stuck in difficult terrain will only be able to charge a maximum of three inches. As mentioned above, due to the miserable state of the terrain rules in this game, units that do not ignore difficult terrain altogether will have their movement halved within difficult terrain and be unable to march. As a result, units that ignore terrain penalties bounce through terrain as if it wasn't there while the rest of the units in the game tend to avoid any kind of difficult terrain like the plague if they intend to move at all through the game.
As you will probably understand, this means that trying to engage a foe that ignores the terrain while you do not can be both frustrating and fruitless if there is a high amount of terrain on the table. Again you have the option to not advance, to not die or get entangled. Since a unit moves at half speed and is unable to march as long as at least some of the unit is within difficult terrain, a unit of 25 Empire Swordsmen (Movement 4) in a 5 x 5 formation will need a ridiculously high 5(!) turns to move from one side of a 6" deep wood to the other. If those Swordsmen were hoping to catch a unit of Dryads (Movement 5 and skirmish) in the wood, they can forget it.
Masta Sun Zi sez: These six are the principles connected with Earth. The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them.
It takes two to win a fight
Unless you are using some sort of hidden deployment (which can be fun now and then), you will be able to observe the deployment of some of your opponent's units as you deploy yours. As anyone who has read a decent number of my articles will know, I am a great fan of having more units than my deployment, in which case I will see the deployment of all of my opponent's units before I have deployed all of my own, and ideally before I have deployed most of my important units. This I achieve by having a great number of cheap support units who are only really there to give me an advantage in deployment and then hang around to claim or contest a table quarter. Below I have listed some considerations when it comes to observing your opponent's deployment, getting him to react the way you want to and correctly interpreting the way he deploys.
Concentration of force
Warhammer, like all war games, is a lot about managing your limited resources in the best possible way. Now, I will not claim that the game is very well balanced, but this is often not important as a lot of the time luck is a greater factor. However, it is difficult to convincingly beat 500 points worth of enemies with 500 points worth of your own troops. It is significantly easier to beat 500 points worth of enemies using 750 points of your own troops, which is what you will generally be aiming to do. By having more forces in one area, you can defeat the enemies opposing you with far less losses to your own troops, which can then go on to attack other parts of the enemy army. Often this is done by concentrating most of your army on one end of your deployment zone and then rolling up the enemy flank. Of course, by doing this you are giving your opponent a 750 to 500 advantage somewhere else - it is impossible to be strong in one area without being weaker in other areas. The task of your units in the weaker area will be to hold up the superior enemy forces there and thus avoiding the same fate as you intend for the outnumbered enemies you are ganging up on. This is made relatively easier by the fact that it is reasonably (that is to say, unreasonably) easy to delay or divert troops in Warhammer, so if you are prepared for this tactic and your opponent is not, you should be able to have a comparative advantage on both flanks - one can easily win while the other can easily avoid losing.
This tactic, generally referred to as the refused flank, tends to only work when your army is more mobile than that of the opponent and it can also be countered in a variety of ways, such as placing units that are Unbreakable or Stubborn to hold the flank that is under attack. This relies, however, on being aware of what your opponent is planning and taking steps in time to counter it. The same principle of concentration of force applies to any other tactic as well - if you intend to soften up enemy units advancing against you with your missile units, you must deploy them in such a manner that you can concentrate enough firepower at them to make an impact. If you intend your units to mutually support one another in combat they must be deployed close enough together to make this possible, and so on.
"Dear enemy war machine crews: Please shoot my precious unit"
Next to being entangled in terrain (see above), the number one bane of "invincible" close combat units is being shot to death. Considering that a hit from a bolt thrower will kill a Chosen Knight of Chaos (45 points) just as easily as a Chaos Warhound (6 points), you obviously want the enemy artillery to shoot the latter instead of the former, if anyone is to be shot at all. A common tactic here is to screen the expensive unit with a much cheaper one by placing the cheaper unit in between the expensive unit and things that want to shoot at it so that it blocks their line of fire. Now, the screening unit does not have to be right next to the unit it is protecting and sometimes it will even work better some distance away, but normally you are blocking more missile fire if you are close by. If this is your intent, then it is important to take this into consideration when you are deploying your units. If your opponent deploys a Organ Gun right across from your prized unit of knight then it is a little late to think that you should have made some room in front of the knights to place a screen there.
Terrain is also normally good for protecting your nasty, yet vulnerable units from enemy firepower, especially those units that can get around or through the terrain easily enough. Many enemy dragons have falled to my Orcs & Goblins war machines because they were foolish to start the battle in the open where they could be shot at. Terrain will generally be better than a screen of interposing models if the target is a Large target or if the firing unit is on a hill and also has the advantage that terrain comes free of charge, while a screen costs points.
Enemy units that are out of position should stay that way
Sometimes a careless opponent will deploy an expensive unit all by itself far from any support. In these cases I see it as my duty to ensure that this state of affairs continues. My much cheaper support units will either do their best to divert the enemy unit from going anywhere profitable, shoot it to bits or mob it in combat. It frequently comes as a great surprise to fresh players how easy it is to prevent a solitary unit from achieving anything at all and how little superior characteristics can be made to matter. Just about any unit has one or more disadvantages (and if it has no direct disadvantages it will often be very expensive, which is a disadvantage in itself) and a unit that fights alone against whatever the opponent wants to send after it will tend to have these disadvantages exaggerated. On various internet fora it is quite common to see people judging the worth of a unit only when placed in the situation in which it does best, without considering how easy it is to get to that situation and that the unit has glaring weaknesses that are easy to exploit.
Obviously, it is a good thing to pair up a unit which is weak in one area with another unit that is strong in that area. Thus a unit that has a high static CR (ranks, standard and outnumbering) but has trouble inflicting damage can do well with a unit that does a lot of damage, but has a low static CR, such as a chariot. A unit that can do a lot of damage but struggles to run down an enemy unit can do well with a unit that rolls 3D6 for pursuit, such as a fast cavalry unit. A unit that is vulnerable to being shot up can, as mentioned above, do well with a unit that isn't. A unit that fights well but is slow and vulnerable to getting charged can do well with a cheap support unit to divert enemy units and make sure it gets to charge. And so on and so forth. Planning these teams, which tends to consist of a main unit and one or more support units starts already when selecting the army and it is important to get it right. When deploying, you must make sure that these units end up in a position to support each other. If you plan on having your tough infantry unit backed up by a hard-hitting chariot, only to discover that you have forgotten to make room for the chariot anywhere near the infantry, then obviously something has gone wrong with your planning.
A roadbloack of your own devising
Recently I was watching a relatively fresh player with an Empire army fight against a Lizardmen army and it was quite obvious that the Empire player had messed up his deployment. Most of his missile units were facing the Lizardmen player's empty right flank, where they had next to nothing to shoot. The Empire player explained that he thought his opponent was going to deploy something important there he could shoot at, which might not have been a bad thing, had it happened. As it happened the Lizard player had only a token force in that area to deny the Empire player the Victory points for table quarters. What was more baffling to me was why the Empire player had placed his Steam Tank behind the handgunner and crossbow units, where it could not advance unless the missile units got out of the way. Even if the Lizardmen player had deployed something on that flank, the Empire player would be struggling to bring his models into position. I asked the newbie why he had done that and he replied that it was intentional(!) - he was of the opinion that the Tank was fragile and that the line of missile units would protect it from getting charged while the Steam Tank, being a Large target, could fire its cannon over the missile units. Thus the Empire player was effectively paying 300 points when he could just have paid 100 points for a normal cannon. A true waste of points.
To take another example that was suggested by several Empire players as a good tactic: It involved a decent large unit of combat infantry, supported by a detachment of handgunners and a detachment of combat troops. The handgunners would deploy in a line in front of the parent unit, while the combat detachment is deployed off to the side. The thought was that the handgunners would shoot and if charged would flee and the enemy unit would crash into the parent unit and then be charged in the flank by the combat detachment. Sounds good in theory, but my counter-argument was that if the opponent did not charge the handgunners, then the Empire player had quite a lot of points tied up behind which were not contributing to the battle. The principle is the same as deploying a non-missile unit behind a defended obstacle; it might make the unit more difficult to defeat, but crossing the obstacle takes a lot of time and meanwhile the opponent can concentrate on beating up the rest of your army. Units should set up so that they have several options available to them and not have to rely on very specific actions from your opponent to be effective.
Some armies, like my beloved greenskins, can create their own unique type of roadblock. By placing one unit that is subject to Animosity in front of another unit that wants to advance, then a single unlucky dice roll will hold up two units instead of just one. If both units are subject to Animosity, then the chance of the rear unit being unable to go forward is almost one out of three. This is why screening with a greenskin army is quite a risky business. Something quite similar can be done in most armies, by placing fast units behind slow ones. Before the fast unit can do anything useful the slow unit in front must get out of the way, which will take time and is possibly quite risky - if you have a large army then moving the blocking unit off to one side may get it in the way of other units. Thus in general you should take care to leave space for fast units where they will be able to advance.
Routing before you have had your first turn
Back in fifth edition the death of your General meant that every unit had to take a Panic test, which meant that a lucky war machine shot could spell disaster for an army with bad Leadership. Fortunately that silly rule has now been removed, but there are in this edition a new way of causing large parts of your army to run off the table in Panic before you have had your first turn. The destruction of a unit with a Unit Strength of 5 or more causes Panic tests in units within 6" and since units will now flee through friendly units in their path, if your army is deployed in a line, fleeing units may run through several units, triggering a wave of Panic and causing significant portions of your army to flee off the table. Situations like that has caused more losses for my Goblin army than any other factor. On one occasion my Wood Elf-playing opponent deployed a Waywatcher character with an item that made him cause Terror right under my nose (Waywatchers can deploy with no minimum distance to the enemy as long as they are out of sight). Thus the first thing I had to do in that battle was take (and fail) Terror tests for nearby units and since my army was so tightly packed, several units ended up fleeing through others, causing Panic and leading to half my army (including my General) having run off the table without doing anything by the start of my third turn.
Therefore, if you include fragile units in your army that can cause Panic in your other units, be careful where you deploy them, so that the destruction of one of them will not cause a general rout before you have had your first turn. This can be done by either deploying fragile units where they cannot easily be shot at, by making sure that they are more than 6" away from units that are easily paniced or by keeping the General close at hand. I believe that I have gotten much better at deploying my Goblin fast cavalry by playing with nothing but gobbos for some time now.
Setting up in the hope of getting the first turn
"What happened?" I asked him. "I set up hoping to get the first turn, but didn't," he replied as he packed away his very expensive and very dead models. This little example neatly demonstrates something fresh players often tend to do and which does not pay off in the long run. In a normal battle, if you finish deploying first, you will get to decide who goes first about two thirds of the time, whereas the other player will get to decide about one third of the time. With that kind of odds, it is not really worth gambling on and the prudent player will deploy expecting not to get the choice of who goes first. Do this well and there will be no disadvantage for you if you don't get to decide and a nice bonus if you do. Whether you want to go first or not depends a lot on the two armies used and the terrain on the table. If you have a static army that aims to hang back and shoot and not much in your army can fire further than 24", there is not a lot of point in getting the first turn, because you can't do much with it anyway. However, if you rely on outmanoeuvring your opponent, you will probably want the first turn to get into position as quickly as possible.
The advantages of going first is first and foremost that you get to move first and so take the initiative in that area. Your opponent has to react more to what you are doing and adjust his plans to fit yours. Your units will also tend to have further to run without leaving the table if they flee and you get to shoot and zap the opponent first. Many times has an important unit got shot at before it has had its turn, fumbled its Panic test and fled right off the table.
The advantages of going second is that you can basically do what you want in the last movement phase with no risk. Units can run out of cover to claim or contest table quarters and position themselves where they would otherwise have been charged by something big and nasty. You also get the last chance to rally, which can be a great bonus; any enemy unit you charge in the last turn gets very little out of choosing to flee, as they have no chance to rally and you will get full points for them whether you catch them or not.
This section deals with the order in which you deploy your units and how the deployment of your units relates to what your opponent is deploying. This only deals with those cases where both players are alternating the deployment of their units. It does not concern itself with situations where the opponent has deployed all his units and you are left with a selection of yours or those cases where hidden deployment is used. Note that several different tactics may be used during the same setup - you may for example first start with a few stalling deployments before reacting to those units your opponent has deployed in the meantime.
To be reactive in deployment means that you adjust your deployment to how your opponent is deploying and don't really aim to influence in return. Your opponent sets up a unit and you adjust by deploying units to counter this. Reactive deployment obviously works better if you have more units that your opponent, in which case he will probably have to start deploying important units before you do. Reactive deployment is usually prudent and can ensure that you get the right units in the right place, but you must take care that you are not being tricked. I for one prefer it that my opponents are being reactive, because that means that they are easier to fool. I can for example deploy a handful of units to make it look like I intend to build up a concentrated force in one area, my opponent will react to that by deploying some nasty units to counter this and then I place the majority of my army somewhere else instead.
When you are proactive in deployment, you are hoping to get your opponent to react to what you are doing and thereby get an advantage. This is usually done in one of two ways: Firstly, by deploying something with an exaggerated reputation you can hopefully make your opponent either devote too many resources to neutralising it, or you can scare him into deploying his units far away from it. The old version of the Helblaster Volley Gun was great for this. Deploy it on one side of the battlefield and many opponents would do all they could to stay more than 24" away from it, which would severaly limit where he could deploy. To get the most out of this little ploy, deploy the scary unit early to have it effect as many enemy units as possible.
The second main way of being proactive is one that I use a lot, namely to appear to deploy in a certain way and then, after the opponent has reacted, do something entirely different instead. Generally this involves appearing to deploy wide and then concentrating all my nasty units in a narrow area and then push through a weak point in the enemy lines. It is then the task of those units that have been placed wide as bait to prevent enemy units from reinforcing the weak spot. Proactive deployment works best against opponents who are blindly reactive and don't consider that the person on the other side of the table may be bluffing.
When you are stalling, you are deploying a series of unimportant units, hoping that your opponent will commit himself to a particular tactic before you do, in which case you can adjust appropriately. New players often do not see the value of weak units, which gives them an army containing very few units and thus they cannot stall and have to start deploying important units straight away. There are three main types of units that are good for stalling with: very mobile units, units that are not vital to your plans and units that both players know will deploy in a certain place anyway. In all cases the goal is the same: to give away as little about your plans as possible. A fast unit can quickly get to many different places on the battlefield, so deploying it in one place tells an opponent very little about where it might intend to go. Units that are not vital do much the same - if you place a cheap 30 to 40-point unit in a corner to claim or contest a table quarter, your opponent will not be any wiser. Finally, if both players know that you will deploy your stone thrower on the one hill you have in your deployment zone, then you might as well deploy it early on.
Often you will have a choice of several different types of stalling units to deploy, in which case I prefer to start with the fast, then place the non-vital units and then finally those both players know where will go. The fast units hit the table first, because they generally need to be up front where they can advance unhindered. If deployed later they might find that they isn't room where I want them to be and that a slower unit that might have equally well been deployed a bit back has taken its place. Non-vital units follow, because they tend to have more freedom in where they want to deploy and sometimes they can be tasked with some slightly more important job than normal. Finally, those units that my opponent "know" where I will deploy might just end up being deployed somewhere else instead.
Calling this a tactic might be stretching it. When you are deploying randomly, you are just placing down units in no particular order without trying to be reactive or proactive. This does not mean that you are placing units in random places, just that you are not aiming to achieve anything with the order in which you place them and you are not concerned with what the other player is doing. A player who choses a random deployment can for example have settled on a setup he prefers over time and will stick to that setup regardless of what his opponent may be doing. Dwarf armies that just intend to deploy around a hill are prime examples of this; they will probably deploy pretty much the same way in each and every battle and there is only so much tactics you can put into deploying. The advantage of random deployment (in as far as there is one) is that you cannot be tricked into setting up in a way that is advantageous to your opponent, though of course you may end up doing so anyway. New players often have no concept of good deployment and will place their units in their deployment zone in any odd order.
Examples of deployments
Finally, I will give some examples of how my armies deploy for battle. Should you gain any advantage from this in any future battle against me, then I hope the dice gods punish you for your impudence.
Orcs & Goblins
My greenskins tend to deploy very widely partly because the army tends to be very large and partly because putting units that are subject to Animosity behind each other is flirting with disaster, as explained above. Sometimes units are deployed in two lines, because often this in unavoidable, but in those cases the units in the second line are mostly intended for support - holding table quarters, launching Fanatics at enemies threatening the first line, watching vulnerable characters and similar glorious tasks. Additionally, the war machines also deploy in the second line, as they need only a narrow field of fire and can thus be deployed behind and between other units and so not leave a weak point in the line. The army otherwise deploys around the General, who will boost the Leadership of the surrounding troops by up to five points! Fortunately, a mixed greenskin army tends to not have too much trouble with Panic, due to the smaller greenies not causing Panic in the bigger ones and units being quite large, but still I do not want units far away from the General from taking too may tests.
On the far flanks, close to the table edge are placed the Wolf Riders, because the army is so large that someone has to be so far away and the Wolf Riders are so quick that they can still rejoin the battle if they turn out to be far from the action. A bit closer to the centre of the line are the slightly slower Spider Riders. They do not have the flat-out speed of the Wolf Riders, but they can be deployed in difficult terrain where few other units want to be. In this part of the battlefield can also be found the randomly moving Squig Hoppers and Pump Wagons, who can very easily end up being a liability if deployed as part of the main battle line, and the odd unit of Goblins and Snotlings. The main stretch of battle line consist of large blocks of Orc infantry, with smaller support units interspaced in between - more Goblin infantry, chariots, Trolls and similar.
Ogres are very expensive models and will often have trouble convincingly defeating enemy units costing roughly the same as themselves. To win they therefore need to use their good overall mobility to gang up on enemy units before they can be reinforced by other enemy units. Good deployment is essential, because although Ogres are quite fast when moving straight ahead, the units tend to be quite wide and therefore they are much slowed down if they have to turn to go anywhere along the table instead of more or less straight across it. A weak point must then be identified and the main portion of the army arrayed across from this ready to smash that part of the enemy force as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to stall the deployment of my own important units until I have some idea of where this might be. To that purpose I will take a large number of cheap units (Gnoblars mostly, but Leadbelchers and cheap Bull units can also serve this purpose) who will be deployed simply to buy time. In as far as they are able to, these units will also try to delay or divert enemy units far from the action while I deal with those enemy units I feel capable of handling at one time.
Contrary to my greenskins, Ogres often deploy in two lines, with the Bulls who are - in Ogre terms - cheap, in the front line where they will absorb as much of the enemy missile fire as they are able to and protect the more expensive and hard-hitting Ogre units behind them. Close to these units are deployed the Rhinox-type of units, Scraplaunchers and Bull Rhinox Riders, who need to pass a Leadership test in order not to charge if able to and would really like to stay close to the General to be able to use his higher Leadership instead of their own.
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