Monday, January 23, 2012

How important is the Deployment Phase? – Part 1

How important is the Deployment Phase? – Part 1
The Deployment phase is one of the most critical phases in most war games. It has the potential to set you up for utter victory or complete failure. The deployment phase requires more strategy than most people give it credit and it can easily determine the winner before any dice are even rolled. The type of war game also has a direct impact of how important the deployment phase is because in some games half the battle is fought in the deployment phase.

During the deployment phase, you and your opponent will attempt to place your units in the most advantageous position to either engage or avoid the other’s best or worst units. In some game systems the deployment zone is a static area from battle to battle while other game systems make use of different types of scenarios that require players to deploy their forces outside the standard 12” line. Through the use of scenarios, game designers have managed to alter not only where the players place their units but also the methods and tactics involved in those decisions. Scenarios accomplish two points, they provide a different area of deployment to players and it employs different winning conditions which directly impact deployment and game play.

Let’s take a look at some of the game systems and how deployment is performed. In some historical games, players will write down where their units will be placed and then reveal their decisions during the deployment phase. If the other general has done a better job of setting up and devised a better deployment strategy, then sometimes the game is decided before any dice are rolled or miniatures even placed. In games such as Blood Bowl where you set up your teams on a fantasy football field, if you properly set up your team you can easily score a touchdown with minimal effort while denying your opponent the chance to stop you. Also, games like Blood Bowl require a redeployment after every half or touchdown which means that there is a lot of strategy involved in deploying one’s team to gain the advantage.

Now when you have war games that provide you with different deployment scenarios, the importance of properly deploying is even more critical. Warhammer 40,000 5th edition currently has 3 basic scenarios and missions in the main rule book. Each of these missions has a different objective in order to secure a victory and also each scenario alters the deployment zone and the method in which troops are deployed. The players have to appropriately deploy their troops, decide who is in reserve, figure out who is scouting or outflanking and then let their opponent do the same before they begin the battle. All of these actions are part of the deployment phase where the stage is set for the upcoming game and a good portion of the game is already decided once the die is rolled to seize the initiative. Warhammer Fantasy has the same type of situation where you have six different scenarios for basic battle missions then a slew of narrative and special battles detailed in its core rulebook. The scenarios alter not only the victory conditions but also the size of the deployment zone and the method of deploying (from alternating units to one player deploys entire army). In Warmachine and Hordes, not only do their scenarios alter deployment and objectives but the very force organization can change the deployment zone for the army. All of these variables make it easy to error in how you deploy your army and complicate the tactics you had planned to employ that game.

Some armies are slightly more forgiving when it comes to making bad decisions in the deployment phase. You generally see this in Warhammer 40k due to the large amount of fliers and fast moving vehicles. You can maneuver and reposition a little bit easier than you can in Warhammer Fantasy but it doesn’t change the fact that your army is still out of position and your opponent has a serious advantage.

In Part 2 of how important is the deployment phase, I will be providing some deployment strategies for the armies I play as well as the methodology involved. You will also see how a poor deployment strategy can severely punish you in game. I will also try to provide deployment examples for all my armies rather than just the Wood Elves and Beastmen. We will be discussing this topic tonight while we record episode 7 of The Deployment Zone. Thanks!