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Misc. Small Units and Characters

Infantry Tactics

by Avian

Infantry is the most common types of unit in the game - all army books in Warhammer contains some form of foot soldiers, though they may or may not have an important role to play in the army. This article deals with infantry in general and is mainly intended for relatively new players.



The attributes of infantry

Types of infantry units

Activities of infantry

Using infantry units


The attributes of infantry

If you have read my introductory tactics article How to Win, you will know that I define five attributes that units all have to a greater or lesser degree: maneuverability, discipline, firepower, resilience and combat ability. In addition to these five, infantry can have any number of the following abilities: they can be a missile unit, they can be skirmishers, they can be scouts, they can be big (i.e. Ogre-size) and they can be flying. This article mainly deals with units that have none of these abilities, though of course a lot of the things discussed here will apply to these special kinds of infantry as well. This goes especially for units that partly have one of the mentioned abilities - Beast Herds, for example, are semi-skirmishers, having some of the traits of ranked units and some traits of skirmishers. Likewise, some units may have missile weapons without this being the main part about them (Gnoblar Fighters, for example). As a rule of thumb, I tend to define units as missile units if they do not come with any special close combat weapon as standard (i.e. other than their basic hand weapon or the equivalent). Thus High Elf Sea Guard (who come with spears and bows as standard) are not a missile unit, while Dwarf Crossbowmen (who can buy great weapons) are.

So how many types of infantry are there in the game? Well, that depends on how you count them. Even if you just limit yourself to "normal" infantry (i.e. the kind that walks around in ordered ranks, has to start the battle in your deployment zone, has a Unit Strength of 1 per model and doesn't shoot much or cast any spells), then you are still faced with the question of what is one type of infantry and what is a different type of infantry. If you are just counting things with their own separate entries in the basic lists of one of the fourteen army books in print at this time, then the answer is 48. If you want to count status upgrades (normal Orc Boyz to Big 'Uns, for example), then you can add another four. If you want to count enhancements (Marks of Chaos, Sacred Spawnings, etc.) then the number increases dramatically. In addition there are choices in weapons and armour, which makes for an even higher number, more than 300 in all. It is not easy to decide on which number between fifty and three hundred to choose. After all, an Empire Halberdier is closer to an Empire Spearman than an Orc Boy is to an Orc Big 'Un, but the former have their own unit entries while the latter share one. Counting all possible status upgrades, marks, weapon and armour options Chaos Warriors have at their disposal gives a grand total of eighty(!) different combinations out of just one entry, more choice than all the units in the Empire army list have in total. To be frank, there are too many different variations on the theme of combat infantry for there to be any point in counting how many of them there actually are, or to even try to describe just the fifty basic ones in detail. This first section of the article thus just deals with the three attributes that all infantry have to a varying degree: discipline, resilience and combat ability. It is assumed that the maneuverability of normal infantry is low (ranked infantry have the lowest maneuverability of any type of unit that intends to move) and that their firepower is not their main selling point. In addition to these three attributes, I will add a fourth: cost, which - while generally dependant on the main three attributes - is often a quick indicator of what a unit is usable for.

The following sections will several times mention a basic grunt as the benchmark, a grunt being an imaginative unit type with the following stats:

  M WS BS S T W I A Ld Sv
Grunt 4 3 3 3 3 1 3 1 7 5+


Hard-hitting >>>>> Weak

Infantry that is hard-hitting kills more enemies in combat than those that are weak. This is not exactly the same as saying that the unit has good combat abilities (as shall be explained later), but that individual unit members can deal out some damage. A unit with about average "hard-hittingness" has +1 to either its Weapon skill, Strength or Attacks over the basic grunt (see above) and you will need about four such models to kill about one enemy grunt. Weaker units need more models to kill one grunt; it takes on average six grunts to kill another grunt, for example, which is about as low as it gets. On the top end of the scale, a Chosen Warrior of Khorne with a halberd will on average kill one and two thirds of a grunt per round of combat, or ten times as much damage as the grunt will do.

Do a little number crunching and you will see that if you have a grunt and get the option of +1 WS, S or A, then the best choice is to boost his Attacks, the second best is Strength and the third best is Weapon skill. The same applies to most units and against most foes; as most units have only one Attack to begin with, doubling their Attacks doubles the damage they do and that is in most cases better than increasing Strength by 1 and always better than increasing Weapon skill by 1. Some stat bonuses do not apply all the time, which makes them more difficult to weigh against each other. Take Orc Boyz for example: They start with choppas, which give +1 Strength in the first round of each combat and give +1 armour save when combined with a shield. Very nice for a basic weapon. They can also take spears, which lets a second rank of models attack when the unit is not charging, does not give any extra save bonus and cost an additional point each. As a rule of thumb, you can simply count the advantages and disadvantages each of these get, counting each point spent as one disadvantage. If an advantage applies all the time, it is worth double. Thus the choppa has two advantages (strength and extra save), versus the spear with one advantage and one disadvantage (extra rank attacking, but higher cost). The choppa has a 2-to-0 advantage over the spear and is therefore a clear winner. If the difference is only one point or the two are even, then it isn't likely to make all that much of a difference and you can generally go with whatever you like.
Another example: Chaos Marauders with flails compared to Chaos Marauders with great weapons. Here the great weapon has the advantage of always getting a Strength bonus, but the disadvantages of striking last except when charging and costing a point more. A narrow advantage for the flail, but not so much that you should feel that you get a significant disadvantage when you take great weapons.

If you want to go into more detail and get a more nuanced analysis, you can look at the situation in an ongoing combat, in which case you only look at advantages and disadvantages that apply in later round of combat (cost is of course a constant disadvantage). In that case, the Orc Boyz with a choppa and a spear come out more even (extra armour save versus extra rank fighting and extra cost) and the Marauders are even (two extra strength, but strikes last and extra cost). On the whole, though, combats often do not last very long - if the first round of combat was not decisive then the second one generally is, as the charged player either succeeds or fails to send in the necessary reinforcements. You can also look at the situation for a large unit (anything larger than, say, fifteen models), in which case disadvantages due to cost count double.

There are, as hinted at above, more to combat that the killing power of individual unit members, something new players are especially prone to forgetting. They look at one unit, sees that its members have higher combat stats than another unit and think that it will usually beat the other unit in combat. This is often not so and a unit where the individual members are weaker will often beat a unit where the individual members are more hard-hitting. This is because combats in Warhammer is not only decided by kills (dynamic CR), but also by ranks, standards and outnumbering (static CR). All else being equal, increased hitting power makes a unit more expensive in nearly all cases and thus you will be able to afford fewer minis in your army and/or that unit. As a rule of thumb, the more hard-hitting a model is, the fewer you want in a unit and the wider you want its formation to be, as both of these increase the dead enemies / cost of unit ratio. Whereas a unit of weak troops may deploy in a formation five models wide and five or more ranks deep, a unit of hard-hitting models will often do better deploying six models wide and perhaps as little as two ranks deep.


Heavy >>>>> Light

Whereas the previous section dealt with the ability to cause damage on the model-level, this section deals with the ability to absorb damage on the model-level. The stats that most commonly affect the heaviness of a unit is its Toughness and armour saves. Some units have other types of saves that also help (generally Ward saves as no normal infantry can Regenerate) and in combat having high Weapon skill also increases your survivability. The average Toughness of infantry is a bit higher than 3 (about two thirds of all infantry have Toughness 3) while the average armour save is around 5+. This means that each infantryman in general is rather easy to kill.

Units of light infantry can to some degree compensate for their low resilience on the individual level by taking more models, which increases their resilience on the unit level. This is of course impractical if units are expensive and it is the reason why horde infantry often beats elite infantry - it is simply too expensive to buy the elite unit up to maximum CR, while the extra killing power of the elite unit fails to make up for the lack of static CR. On the whole, though, good effective resilience on the unit level is one of the main advantages of infantry. The basic problem with the more elite types of infantry is that while a model that is twice as expensive as another will often do twice as much damage in close combat, but is generally not noticeably more difficult to kill. Take a thirteen-point Black Orc compared to a seven-point Orc Boy. Assuming that both charge in with two choppas, the Black Orc kills exactly twice as many grunts as the Orc Boy does, which is about what you would expect. However, if the Black Orc is shot at on the way across the table, his only advantage is a one-point higher armour save, which might not even matter if the weapon that hit him has a high enough save modifier.

It is also worth noting that the resilience of infantry varies a lot less than the hitting-power of their foes do. While it is quite possible to get a model that does four or five times as much damage as the basic grunt, it is rare to have an infantry unit with more than twice the effective resilience of the basic grunt. Against a charging knight with a lance, heavy infantry tends to die almost as quick as light infantry. A lot of this is due to the double effect Strength has on resilience, as it increases both the chance of wounding the target and the chance of getting through his armour. Infantry with a low resilience compared to their cost, when it is used, should therefore be well protected from hard-hitting enemy units, especially knights and war machines. Only against weaker enemies do they get a full advantage of their increased resilience. This can be done either through good deployment, screening them with units with a higher resilience / cost ratio or by taking out or diverting the hard-hitting enemy units.

In general, taking units that are slightly less resilient but much cheaper is a better idea. They tend to have a higher resilience on the unit level and it is easier to find a weapon that kills a few elite models easily than it is to find a weapon that kills the same value in average models equally easy. A Goblin Spear Chukka is great at killing 45-point Chosen Knights and is dead cheap, but it is much more expensive to find a unit that can kill 45 points worth of Chaos Warhounds equally easy. Two units of medium infantry is generally much more difficult to destroy than one unit of heavy infantry.


Steadfast >>>>> Rabble

A steadfast unit is one you have control over most of the time, while a unit of rabble will often do as it pleases. The single most common indicator of good discipline is high Leadership, but special rules such as Frenzy, Stupidity or Animosity can also cause your models to move when you had hoped they'd stand still, or vice-versa. While the ability to deal out or withstand damage can in many ways be controlled by the player by giving a unit better weapons or armour, discipline can generally only be improved by having characters nearby or in the unit. There are a few cases when you can make a unit more (or less) steadfast by giving it certain upgrades (the Mark of Slaanesh to make Chaos Warriors Immune to Psychology, for example), though these are limited. Using characters to make a unit of infantry more steadfast (and generally also make it more hard-hitting) is often a very good idea, though of course the number of character in an army is generally fewer than the number of infantry units you'd wish were lead by one.

As a rule of thumb, an average unit benefits more from being joined by a character than an elite unit does. Take my Ogres, for example: I can either place the Bruiser with the Battle Standard in a unit of Ironguts or in a unit of Bulls. The Ironguts have Leadership 8, the same as the Bruiser and so do not benefit as much from his company as the Bulls with their Leadership of 7 do. Similarly, a Black Orc character gets nothing out of his Quell Animosity ability in a unit of Black Orcs, as they do not test for Animosity anyway and he would get much more use out of it in a unit of Orc Boyz.

In general, a unit with low discipline needs to be kept closer to the army general than one with a higher discipline. If you have a high number of units of rabble you will therefore either need to bunch up closer to the general than you would otherwise need, you could lead them with more competent characters or you will just have to hope that they do not end up in a situation where their unreliable nature causes great problems. My Gnoblars, for example, have a Leadership of 5 and cannot take a musician. Should they then start to flee while they are far away from my Tyrant with his Leadership of 9, they will quite often run off the table. Luckily, they are very cheap and so it is not a great loss if they flee. On the other hand I have seen people construct units of Night Goblins that cost four times as much as my Gnoblars (or more) and have the same Leadership. These units really must be kept close to the general or they will be easy victory points for your opponent.


Cheap >>>>> Expensive

Above I have described the three main attributes of infantry models - the ability to deal out damage, the ability to withstand damage and the amount of control you have over what they do. In addition to this comes the cost of the model. Now, it appears that when you double the cost of a model, you do not double all three of the other attributes, you double two of them. Thus if you double the cost of a model, you can for example get something that does twice as much damage and is twice as likely to behave well, but is just as easy to kill. Generally speaking, though, it is not as clear cut as this, and most of the time you will instead get a model that does twice as much damage, is 50% more likely to behave well and is 50% harder to kill, or something similar. This is not a hard and absolute rule by any means, just a general trend, and it is quite possible to get a worse deal than that - an Orc Big 'Un, for example, costs nearly twice as much as an Orc Boy, and does twice the damage but is no more difficult to kill and is not any easier to control.

In general, infantry that costs 5 points or less per model is cheap, infantry that costs 6 to 9 points per model is average and infantry that costs 10 to 12 points per model is expensive. Infantry that costs more than 12 points per model is often too expensive or at least quite difficult to get much out of. Cheap models can be bought in large units of 25-30 models without being overly expensive. Such units are very seldom very hard-hitting, but their great size makes them very resilient and their resilience tends to make them more steadfast. Taking expensive infantry, on the other hand, means you get fewer of them, which means either less resilient units or fewer units (and hence a less resilient army) and therefore less steadfast units.


Types of infantry units

I personally like to divide units of all types into three broad classes according to what they cost, as the cost of a unit will often dictate what it is capable of doing. When a cheap unit is able to do the job of a more expensive unit it is being effective, while an expensive unit that does nothing a cheaper unit could not do is being ineffective. Thus when a 300-point unit of Black Orcs performs pretty much the same tasks as a 200-point unit of Orc Boyz, it is not being effective. The principle is pretty simple and similar to Occam's Razor: When two units can perform the same task equally well, choose the cheapest.
It seems that players often forget this and are quite happy when their 400-point unit accompanied by a 300-point character destroy two cheap enemy units with a combined cost of around 250 points. While it isn't exactly bad to have earned some victory points and survived, you could probably have achieved the same with a much cheaper unit. Personally I am hesitant to field infantry units costing more than, say, 300 points (or 450 points including characters), and I tend to find that several cheaper units makes for a much more flexible approach that is harder to counter.


Main units

These units are your main workhorses, with a points value from a bit less than 200 points and upwards. They will be the ones that directly earn you the most victory points and where you will place most of your characters. Some armies can actually do well without main units at all, sticking solely with support and hybrid units. Main infantry units tend to either come with a full rank bonus (which means 20+ models) or they are hard-hitting enough to do without. Under normal, good conditions, a main infantry unit should be able to rack up a combat result bonus of around 6 or 7 points.
Example: 210 points buys you 30 Orc Boyz with choppa, shield and light armour, including a full command group. Against a unit of grunts, this unit tends to cause two kills (average is a bit more), in addition to three ranks, a standard and probably outnumbering. A CR of 7 for the Boyz, which is very good for the points.
Meanwhile, 225 points buys you 20 Dwarf Warriors with great weapons, heavy armour and a full command group. They tend to do about 3 kills (again the average is a bit more than that), have three ranks and a standard but probably not outnumbering. A CR of about 7 for the Dwarfs as well. Both of these are decent main-line infantry units even without characters to lead them. The Orcs have Animosity which is a disadvantage, but with 30 guys with Toughness 4 and decent armour they are hard to thin down with shooting. The Dwarfs have fewer guys and move even slower than the Orcs, but are more reliable with a higher Leadership.

The main problem (ha ha) with these units is getting them into combats they can win, which is why you take something other than main units in your army. Thus you would normally take something like one main unit in your army per 500 points, making up around half your total points value. Main infantry units tend to benefit a lot from being joined by fighter characters, who can turn distinctly average units into very good, robust ones. It is often the case that a decently large (i.e. around 25) unit of semi-heavy infantrymen joined by a cheap-ish fighter character will combined be as hard-hitting and steadfast as the same amount of points spent on a unit of more expensive infantry models, but it will also be more resilient to damage and is generally a Core unit whereas more elite infantry tend to be Special or even Rare.


Support units

Support units vary in cost from as little as 20 points (for some idiotic reason you are actually able to get 10 Hobgoblins for that cost) and up to a bit more than a hundred points. They are mainly there to help other units do their thing better and often do not actually earn any victory points themselves, at least not directly. In my experience, new players often do not see the value of support units and just stack up on main units that can do as much damage as possible. With infantry in particular, this can quite easily lead to your expensive units being isolated and defeated one at a time.

Traditionally, fast cavalry tend to make the best support units, due to their very high mobility. This makes them very flexible, a very good trait in a support units. Infantry units, when they are used as support, will be more limited to sticking close to the unit(s) they are supporting. Their prime advantage is the higher resilience than fast cavalry units tend to have, which makes them more difficult to remove with firepower. A very desirable trait in supporting infantry is not causing Panic in nearby units. Goblins, for example, do not cause Panic in Orc units, which makes them great for supporting their larger greenskin cousins. Empire Detachments are even better and are heartily recommended. As they might easily be called upon to do fulfill quite risky tasks, you generally want to keep the cost of support units as low as possible, which usually means taking cheap models and not giving them many extras. Unit size should be kept at or close to a minimum, but for units that start at 5 models, you will probably want a few extra models so that you can afford to be shot at a bit without ending up below unit strength 5. Weapon upgrades are generally not worth it and often there is little point in armour upgrades too. When it comes to command options, a musician tends to be quite cheap and useful, as support units often flee at least once during the game. Standard bearers, on the other hand, is rather risky and the cost for a champion isn't usually worth it.


Hybrid units

These units fall somewhere in between main units and support units in quality and cost, the basic idea being to have a decently high number of units that can mutually support each other instead of dividing the army into the supporters and the supported. With armies where the models tend to be quite expensive (elves and ogres, for example), this tends to give an army with a large number of small units, commonly known as the MSU (=Many Small Units) approach. It can also be done by some armies with cheaper models. This approach enjoys no particular acronym, though MMU (=Many Medium-sized Units) could be used. Gnoblar armies, for example, do quite well with this approach, partly because their units do not cause Panic in each other but also because it is not really possible to make an expensive Gnoblar unit.

Hybrid units use the tactics of baiting and fleeing to a large extent, to set up combined charges from several units at once. Traditionally the MSU approach uses minimal units of close combat troops, which means you are maximising the damage they can do, compared to how much the unit costs. Good discipline is important, as it is generally quite easy to cause enough casualties on a unit to force a Panic test and with a lot of fleeing going on, more Panic may be caused and high Leadership is good for the following rally tests.


Activities of infantry

This part of the article deals with the two things infantry tend to do (move and fight) and the three things that tend to be done to them (shooting, flanking and ignoring them). If you understand how these things work, you should hopefully better understand how to do the desired activities better and avoid the undesirable ones as much as practically possible.



The basic problem with any sort of infantry is that they are so slow and trying to move in any direction other than straight ahead tends to take a lot of time. The width of their formation is generally longer than their basic movement and often the length of the formation is the same. Not only does this mean that a unit that is unable to march cannot wheel by more than about 60 degrees and then not move forward at all, if the unit moves directly forward it will occupy more or less the same space as it did at the start of it's move. When that area is right in the path of an oncoming heavy cavalry unit lead by a nasty fighter character, an unsupported infantry unit is often in deep trouble.

Similarly, an infantry unit that ends up in the middle of a forest thanks to an unlucky pursuit move will often find that they cannot get out of it before the battle is over. People will often claim that tables with a lot of terrain is bad for armies with a lot of cavalry - they are dead wrong. Terrain favours units that can either get around it quickly or have some special rule that lets them move through it unhindered.



While cavalry tends to do much better when they charge than at any other time, infantry often do more or less equally well even if they are the ones being charged. Thus if an infantry unit charges a cavalry unit, the infantry gets pretty much the same CR as they'd do if they were charged (three ranks, standard, outnumbering, no kills), while the cavalry unit will often swing from CR 6+ (five or more kills and standard) when charging to CR 3 (two kills and standard) when not charging. Against other infantry, the average infantry unit will do either one or two kills. One of the advantages of infantry is the ability to get static CR (that is, ranks, standards and the outnumbering bonus) quite cheaply compared to other units. For average infantry (6 to 9 points per model), a point of rank bonus costs between 30 and 45 points, which is reasonable. Above that, however, rank bonuses start to become overly expensive and models in rear ranks are more like ablative wounds to keep the unit functioning even if they take damage. At that level, if you want rank bonuses, consider backing your expensive infantry up with cheaper infantry units instead. Infantry units deployed five models wide get the maximum +3 rank bonus when they reach 20 models and some people choose to take no more than that. However, such a unit only needs to suffer a single casualty before it is reduced to a +2 rank bonus, and that can happen quite easily. If going for a maximum static CR, around 25 models (if the models are cheap you can go for more) is a good starting point.

Some infantry units can deal out a lot of damage, but cannot absorb it well. As infantry tend to be rather slow compared to most other units, when putting together an infantry unit you should ask yourself what happens when that unit gets charged by a reasonably nasty unit. If the unit tends to do quite well if it is the one that charges, but struggles if it is the one that is charged, you should consider some plan for how to avoid this (this usually involves using support units, see below).


Being shot at

Infantry units, because they are quite large and slow-moving, tend to make good targets for enemy shooting or magic. This is especially true for most types of expensive infantry, who are often rather lacking in armour saves. Cheaper infantry tend not to make very tempting targets and most players will often mind more interesting things to shoot at than a large unit of Goblins or similar. Of course, armies have variable amounts of firepower units (wizards, missile units and war machines being the three most common types), but nearly all have some form of ranged attack. The major downside to any sort of expensive infantry is that they tend to die to firepower a lot quicker than an equally expensive unit where the individual models cost less. Take the often-mentioned Black Orcs, for example. Each individual Black Orc is more difficult to kill with most low-power shooting (but not with most war machines) than an Orc Boy, but a 250-point unit of Black Orcs dies a lot quicker than a 250-point unit of Orc Boyz, because the Boyz get around 15 extra models and only have one pip of armour save less per model.

Remember that units that use both hands to hold weapons in combat can also use shields to protect themselves against missile fire and spells. For cheap infantry there is little point in this and it is better to just buy more models to soak up the missile damage. For expensive infantry (costing 10+ points), on the other hand, it is definitely worth considering shields, even for units which intend to use great weapons, halberds or similar.

One of the best ways to get your precious, vulnerable infantry unit shot to death is to include no other tempting target for your opponent to shoot at. Include one unit of very expensive infantry in an army that is otherwise made up of much cheaper infantry and you can almost be sure that the expensive infantry will be the recipient for most of the enemy firepower unless you make a great effort to avoid this. Some people will claim that this is a good thing for you and that having your elite infantry shot to bits means that your other units will go more or less unscathed. This is rubbish. As mentioned, missile fire does a lot less against cheaper models and there is essentially nothing you'd rather want your opponent to shoot at than your cheap infantry, as they will not take much damage and give up few victory points to your opponent.


Being flanked

Being charged in the flank by a unit that can remove its rank bonus (i.e. a non-skirmishing unit with a Unit Strength of 5 or more) is bad for both infantry and cavalry, but infantry tend to suffer more, as their low mobility and larger flanks means that it happens more often than with cavalry. Of course, very weak chargers will bounce of very nasty infantry units, even if they charge them in the flank, but on the whole, getting flanked is often the death of any infantry that is not Stubborn or Unbreakable. Typically, the infantry is down to having a standard and outnumbering bonus, while the flanking unit has the flank attack bonus. In addition, both sides get bonuses for the damage they do in combat, where the flanking unit often has the advantage. Most of the time, infantry units get flanked because they are isolated. If you take half a dozen infantry units and make an effort to keep them more or less in a line, then only the two on the far edges of the battle line can be flanked, whereas half a dozen isolated infantry units have a dozen individual flanks you need to protect, which is much more difficult.

Having a couple of fast cavalry units hanging around in case your flank gets threatened is often very worthwhile. If an enemy cavalry unit moves up on your flank, turning the infantry to face it will often expose it to being flanked by other units originally in front of it, or the would-be flankers will just move again and continue to threaten your flanks. At best you will have lost a turn, precious time which infantry rarely have enough of. Place a unit of fast cavalry in the way so that the pursuit path of the enemy unit leads it away from your flank, however, and the infantry can continue to do their thing unworried.


Being avoided

Last on the list of unfortunate things that can happen to your infantry unit is ... nothing. You can tool up your infantry for combat, screen it from missile fire and protect it from being flanked, but if it ends up doing nothing much it isn't really being useful, is it? Naturally there are exceptions; some units are perfectly happy sitting quietly in a corner, holding a table quarter, but that is generally a task for very cheap units. More expensive units want to go out and achieve something more, and that is sometimes quite difficult. At one tournament I faced a Dwarf player with a tooled-up Dwarf Lord in a similarly tooled-up unit of Ironbreakers. That one unit was far too nasty for any of my distinctly average greenskin units to defeat, so I used a Night Goblin unit to distract it, while the rest of my army beat up the rest of his. The Ironbreaker unit survived the battle unscathed and even earned some VPs for the Night Goblin unit, but compared to how much it cost, it was pitiful.

The best way to avoid being avoided is through good deployment and making sure that the rest of your army can pressure the opposing army into going where you want him to. A single very expensive unit that attempts to cross the battlefield while the rest of the army hangs back and shoots is reasonably simple to get around, but include other units to deny routes of advance to the enemy and you can funnel units into the path of your juggernaut.


Using infantry units

This part deals with using your infantry units in battle. As you will soon see, to a great part this involves using infantry in combination with other types of units to bring forth the strong sides of them all. Infantry alone will probably struggle against most opponents and is usually a bit dull to field as well.


Isn't it just pushing your units across the table?

Well, to some extent it is, but then most infantry come in rather unwieldy blocks that do not encourage fancy manoeuvering and they cannot shoot, so what else are you supposed to do with them? Infantry, on the whole, do not do a lot of fancy stuff. In previous editions it was even worse; back in fifth edition the standard game length was D3+3 turns, which meant that the poor, bloody infantry often did not get a chance to do anything at all because they could only move so far during four turns. Even now, infantry units tend not to end the battle very far from where they started it, unless they get involved in some high-speed pursuits. Infantry tactics are therefore, by and large, centered around good initial deployment and good support.

Many types of units make good support for infantry. Fast cavalry are good at baiting and diverting units you do not want to charge you. Chariots and small monsters add a lot of punch in combat and their high dynamic CR (dead enemy models) and narrow frontage go well with the high static CR (ranks, standard, outnumbering) and wide frontage of infantry units. Cheaper infantry units are good for close-range support, counter-charges and sometimes providing static CR for infantry units who lack that themselves. And finally firepower units (wizards, missile units, war machines) are good at neutralising enemy support units that try to do the things just mentioned to your units.

Any infantry unit, especially those that are slower or more expensive than normal, tend to benefit from being deployed relatively late, when you have some idea of where the main punch-up on the battlefield is going to be. You want a reasonably direct path to one or more enemy units that your unit and its attending support units can take out. Ideally the enemy should not have too many chances to shoot, flank or avoid your unit while you get there. Staying close to the general and his (usually) higher Leadership is often a good choice. If all else fails and no position seems overly tempting, then clumping your units together for mutual support is usually better than spreading them out, as it makes it more difficult for the opponent to pick them off one at a time. Support units should of course be deployed so that they can support their designated main unit. This means that you need to make sure there is room enough to deploy them together. One little trick that I used to use when I was a relatively fresh player was to first write up an army list and then lay the army out on the table at home, so see how much room my units needed.


Charge and win

It happens now and then that your infantry gets presented with a target it can defeat. Before declaring a charge against this opportune target, there are a few small questions you need to ask yourself: What happens if the enemy unit flees from the charge? If this will leave your unit unsupported in the open and comprehensively flanked then you should be sure that you know what you are doing. A lot of the time it is better to flee from a charge if your unit is likely to be broken, as this gives you a better chance of getting away and your opponent will often know this. Some units cannot flee from a charge, which makes your life easier in this regard. Secondly, what happens if you charge but fail to break the enemy unit? Most infantry units will struggle to break similar enemy units by themselves, and failing to do so might mean that you are stuck in a combat you cannot win as your opponent sends in reinforcements to finish your unit off. Experience or some quick number crunching in your head should give you some idea of how much you are likely to win by and how likely the enemy unit is to break. To get a reasonably chance of breaking the enemy unit, a good rule of thumb is that you want them to make a break test against Leadership 5 or less if they don't have a battle standard nearby, or Ld 4 if they do have a BSB nearby. If we assume a Ld 9 general nearby and no re-roll, you need to win by about 4 points, which is very unlikely for most infantry units fighting against even semi-competent foes. Of course, you just need to win the combat by 1 point to have a chance of breaking your foe (assuming he isn't Unbreakable), but in a narrow fight you should have some plan in case the enemy unit does not turn tail and run away. It certainly helps if the enemy unit is all alone and abandoned, but if they have friends close by, then some of your support units set up to divert them will let you do your grizzly work uninterrupted.

Thirdly, what happens if the enemy unit breaks and you run after them? Some units, such as those suffering from Hatred, are forced to pursue and in that case it should be very interesting where you are likely to end up. Two thirds of the time, a normal infantry unit will pursue between 5 and 9 inches and given the size of most infantry units, this makes them rather predictable. You can for example assume that at least some parts of the unit will end up five inches in front of the point where it touches the enemy unit, and if that is right in the charge path of a nasty enemy unit, it might not be a good idea to pursue. Of course, most units are not forced to pursue a fleeing enemy, though those who do not must pass a Leadership test in order to restrain pursuit. If your unit only has a Leadership of 7 or so, there is a good chance that it will end up pursuing. When pursuit is likely to end you in trouble, you can either make an effort to divert the counter-charging enemy unit, or you can move your general closer, which will let you test to restrain pursuit on his Leadership instead of your own.
Finally, you should consider what happens if the enemy unit breaks and runs while your unit does not pursue. Normally, an infantry unit will want to pursue a fleeing foe, as it has a chance of running them down and by pursuing it will capture the standard of the fleeing unit, whether it catches them or not. Pursuit also gives a relatively slow unit an often useful boost of speed. The times when you do not wish to pursue are most often that the enemy unit doesn't have a standard, will most likely run straight off the table or that your unit isn't likely to catch them anyway. Before deciding to restrain pursuit (or not to overrun, if all foes are dead), evaluate the position your unit is in as you would for the case when your unit fails to break the enemy unit.

This article contains no section called "Charge and lose", because infantry that expects to lose will nearly always do better by not charging.


Bait and counter-charge

One of the best ways to get infantry to charge a faster unit is to bait it with a support unit, luring it into charging and then counter-charging in your next turn with your infantry unit. I have defeated many a unit of knights with my infantry in this way. The basic idea is as follows: You place a support unit right in front of the enemy unit, placed so that they can't just move around with easily - they must either charge or waste a lot of time with fiddly manoeuvering. Should the enemy unit charge, the bait flees and the enemy unit ends up in a position where it can be charged by your waiting infantry unit. This tends to work best against quite fast enemy units and against slower units it will often lead to very cramped situations where your units will more easily get in the way of each other. You get the greatest effect when the enemy unit catches you bait, which cases it to move a full charge move forward, instead of just a normal move. This situation is easier to set up because it gets less crowded (not least because the bait unit dies) and you are not risking your infantry unit becoming an Enemy in the Way. When dealing with enemy cavalry with a 14" charge range, you want your infantry unit around 16" away from the cavalry and the bait unit around 1" away from it if the bait is also a cavalry unit. If the bait is infantry you can keep it a bit further back from the enemy unit, but if you want it to be run down, keep it as close as possible.

Cases where the bait is not run down can be a bit problematic if the enemy unit, the bait and your infantry unit is placed along the same line. Unless the enemy unit is reasonably slow and your infantry unit is reasonably quick, the enemy unit will often be able to declare an Enemy in the Way charge against your infantry, or your infantry will be out of range to charge next turn. In cases like these, it is often better to place the infantry slightly off to the side, so that they are not in the path of the charging unit. Anything that increases the movement of your infantry unit is obviously also of great value.

A variation of this is to hold against the charge and angle the bait unit so that your infantry can counter-charge against the flank of the enemy unit. This is usually more effective if you manage to pull it off, but it can be more difficult to estimate where the enemy unit will end up, especially if it is not forced to pursue. Using an Unbreakable (or semi-Unbreakable) unit as bait can work if you think it can survive a round of combat with the enemy unit (if it dies, the enemy unit will have the option of overrunning away), but as such units are often quite easy to kill, they can turn into a liability in the second round of combat.


Hold and flank charge

One of the good things about infantry is that they can often receive a charge better than other units. If the enemy unit is not too nasty and your unit is quite resilient (or reasonably resilient and can deal out a bit of damage in return), you can opt to accept a charge which you assume will not break you and then charge the enemy unit in the flank next turn with a support unit. Having good Leadership (or being Stubborn or Unbreakable) and having the army general or Battle Standard Bearer close by is of obvious use here. With greenskins, for example, a basic tactic is to alternate Orc main units and Goblin support units in your main battle line. Orc units can take a charge quite well as they are tough and have a high static CR, and the Goblin units can charge the enemy units in the flank next turn (assuming they don't squabble).

This tactic can be quite risky if a unit does not have too impressive Leadership (a unit with Ld 7 will fail most break tests, for example) and if you are obviously very likely to hold against the charge, your opponent may decide not to charge at all, or will go to some extra effort to neutralise your flankers. Any sort of sneaky magic item that makes you lose the combat by less (such as a War Banner) or which makes you more likely to pass the break test is of great value here, though experienced opponents will often know about them and take precautions.

As mentioned above, most units (infantry or otherwise) are in trouble if they get flanked, so any unit you send in to reinforce your side in the combat is likely to swing it by enough to convincingly win it. The enemy unit should be likely to break and will flee away from the main unit (assuming the support unit doesn't have the greatest Unit Strength). At this point you will usually want to pursue with both the main unit and the support unit, because this greatly increases the chance of running down the enemy unit (for some considerations to make, see above). However, you can decide to just pursue with the support unit, which on its own has a slightly better than even chance of running down a fleeing enemy unit (assuming an equal number of dice to pursue and flee). The support unit should be expendable and so it is not a big problem if it ends up in a sticky situation after the pursuit. The same may happen if the flank charge fails to break the enemy unit - the support unit will often stand there with its own flank towards the enemy.


Divert and survive

Some enemy units are far too nasty for your infantry to fight, regardless of who is charging. Chosen Knights of Khorne, for example, are very difficult for most infantry units to harm and get three Strength 5 attacks each, even when they are not charging. Against such unit, flanking may work, but often they will still be quite likely to hold and can send in something else to charge you in your turn. Or else the break, outrun your infantry, rally and reform to face you. When such a unit comes towards your infantry, the best choice is often to divert them off to one side, where they will do little harm. The last time I faced Chosen Knights of Khorne, they spent a lot of the battle stuck in a swamp and only achieved the destruction of some Snotlings.

Once again the humble support unit comes to the aid of your infantry. Place it in the path of the enemy unit, angled so that if the enemy unit charges, it will end up facing away from the action and will need to spend the next turn or two getting back in the game. This works best against enemy units that must charge and/or pursue if able to and even better if you can get the enemy unit to end up in difficult terrain. Infantry units in particular will struggle to do anything at all for the rest of the game if they end up in difficult terrain as their movement will be drastically reduced and wasn't too impressive to begin with. In my last battle against the Dark Elves, my opponent's Witch Elves (who are frenzied) spent most of the game chasing after Wolf Riders, until my Big Boss in a chariot charged them in the flank, broke them and ran them down.

As an alternative, the diverting unit can simply flee from the charge, though often this will mean that the enemy unit moves only a normal move after the fleeing unit if it doesn't catch them. When pursuing in this way, it is important to remember that the two units move along the line between the charging and fleeing unit, which will often mean that they end up facing in another direction than they would have if your unit had not fled. Fast cavalry are great for diverting nasty units away from your infantry, because of their ability to move when they rally after they flee as a charge reaction and roll 3D6 for their flee move.


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