Friday, December 28, 2012

Army Tactica: The idea of pressure

I find most often when playing in warhammer 40k, that most people tend to be defensive players. That is, they tend more to react and allow their opponent to set the pace of the game than set it themselves. I'm not sure why this is. All of my more challening games have come from opponents who refused to go at my pace, but blazed their own destructive trail.

What do I mean by pace of the game? I don't mean how quickly turns are resolved, though this can be part of it. (feeling pressured to decide / move quickly can be adverse). I mean deciding the ebb and flow of combat.
This determines the outcome of the game significantly. If I'm the dominant player, I'm deciding what models my opponent can shoot at, where charges are going to occur, where models are going to move based on pressures applied.

Many people are perfectly happy to deckchair their armies, firing off massive levels of torrent, then fling their models forward in the late stages of the game to lay claim to objectives. These people are not setting the pace of the game. They are allowing the game to happen to them and firing at targets of opportunity as provided by their opponent.

I play assault armies. To play a proper and sucessful assault army, you need to be all over someone on turn 2. The implication of being all over someone turn 2, requires turn 1 you come catapulting across the board full speed, mucking things up along the way to make sure your opponent is sitting where you want them for the turn 2 finale.

Assault armies have usually won or lost the game by the bottom of turn 2/3. They may not know it at the time though. I don't mean they(the assaulty army) have tabled their opponent. I mean if they have dictated the pace of the game. Most people hate being assaulted (rare exception, space wolves). By being forced to react to the preasure placed on them by the assaulting army, they are moving at the assaulters pace. They are usually gimped in their future actions, and if done properly, this will adversely affect them the rest of the game. This may be movement, or being tied down in protracted combats, or having such a reduced combat effectiveness, that to push out offensively risks certain death from the remaining elements of the assaulters army.

There are exceptions to this, of course, as with anything. Highly mobile or reserved amies can make a mockery of this. Especially infantry in vendettas or storm ravens. But the general application is still sound, if you are mucking up your opponents deployed army by turn 2, he is most likely spending the rest of the game reacting to the pressure you apply, than putting pressure on you.

So, in essence, the pace of the game is the ability to pressure your opponent in such a way, that they are not trying to pressure you, but respond to the pressure you give them. Thus you are dictating to them, without telling them, what they are going to do (in order to problem solve your army).

By the way this is not a new concept. This applies to pretty much every strategy game across the board. Starcraft, Command and Conquer, Chess, Checkers, Go, it doesn't matter.

I can't take any credit for being a brilliant thinker and somehow deducing this by the way. I learned this lesson learned the hard way, taught to me by Mike Brandt in repeated crushing losses. I'm just vomiting it out there for the rest of the world to learn from my failures. It's not a new concept, but it is one that I think most people don't actively think about, and it really is game changing.

It affects every aspect of your game too, from list design to tabletop deployment , to the actual combat itself. You'll end up designing armies you know can apply pressure on your opponent and derive reactions.

1 comment:

  1. I think the concept of playing defensively can also be called turtling, but this is not a building game so it's the wrong strategy.