How important is the Deployment Phase? Part 2
In the first part of this topic I wrote about how critical deploying correctly is when playing a war game. During Episode 7 of The Deployment Zone podcast, we again discussed this topic at great length where we spoke about not only how critical it is to deploy correctly but also some methods of deploying. In this post I plan on describing some methods that I use when deploying both my Eldar and Wood Elves. In addition to describing those methods, I will be touching on how army composition and build will also determine how you deploy.
The first game system I’ll be discussing is Warhammer 40k. I currently have two fully painted armies in 40k, my Ulthwe` Eldar and my Black Templars and a few partially painted armies like Space Wolves and Dark Eldar. Each of these armies not only functions differently but also requires a different deployment strategy to capitalize on the army strengths. I will only be touching on the Eldar deployment in this post, I may discuss the deployment methods for the Black Templars, Space Wolves and Dark Eldar in another post but for now we will stay with the Eldar.
In Warhammer 40k 5th edition there are three types of deployment options and also three mission types (unless you play one of the expansions or the Battle Missions book). I will first go over how I use the Eldar since that is a completely different play style over the Black Templars. The nicest thing about Warhammer 40k is that if you mess up your deployment it does not automatically guarantee you a loss or a difficult game. The ability to use vehicles and other movement options makes the game is much more forgiving when you deploy poorly.
Regardless of the mission type (Annihilation, Capture and Control or Objectives), I will deploy my Ulthwe` Eldar like it was an Annihilation mission if I know I have the first turn. I have discovered that with the Eldar, when you are playing 40k you need to treat the game as an Alpha strike where you surgically remove the key units first then you are able to accomplish the mission goals.
In the pitched battle scenario, I place my relatively static units near the center of my deployment zone while the fast moving skimmers are put to the far corner near some form of cover. The plan behind this is when my opponent places all of their big units or guns directly across from the skimmers, first turn I can zip 36” across the board and suddenly my opponent’s entire army is out of position. This tactics is exceptionally helpful against footsloggers and elite armies that have to get into close combat as quickly as possible. The entire idea behind deploying in this fashion is to not only ensure that my opponent deploys poorly to counteract my deployment, but to also secure a strong flank where if they turn to face my skimmers they have now provided their flank to my long range weapons or other units.
When the mission is Spearhead (my personal favorite), I will aggressively deploy on the line with all my transports and war walkers in order to get in my opponents face as quickly as possible. That or if I know that I am facing an army that has horde-like traits, I will line up on the line and my opponent will attempt to do the same in order to reach me easily at which point I will fly back 36” and bombard them with fire as they cross the board. The goal of deploying on the line is to draw my opponent into placing key units near my key units so I can quickly assault and remove important models. It also allows me to hopefully pincer my opponent by flying the skimmers behind the army and bombards their units with long range fire from the opposite corner.
Lastly, the Dawn of War mission (I despise this deployment type) where I deploy only one unit which is generally either pathfinders or a unit of Storm Guardians in their transport right on the line so that my opponent is forced to deploy near their edge. I will then fly back on turn 1 as everything enters the table and attempt to secure a flank. If I am going second, I still deploy aggressively but rather than lining up on the line for all three deployment types, I will intentionally deploy near one side of the board where it appears I am out of position and then on my turn (provided I survive whatever bullshit alpha strike 40k allows you to unleash in the first turn: Imperial Guard and Grey Knights I’m looking at you) I will use the advantage of speed and mobility to zip across the table and decide where the battles will take place. Essentially, when playing Eldar and using their transports/jetbikes/skimmers you have the opportunity to use speed to your advantage. Only the Dark Eldar surpasses the Eldar in mobility and even then the Eldar have the other benefits which can and will be covered in tactica articles in the future.
If I am going second in any of these scenarios, I will deploy almost the same but when placing units on the board I will attempt to place them in 50% or more cover. Many Eldar players deploy using the “Reserves game” where they keep certain key units off until later turns. I personally despise using this type of deployment because with the exception of my War Walkers, I do not use reserves unless I am forced. Every turn that a unit in reserves is off the table is another turn that the unit has lost effectiveness and utility.
I chose these types of deployment strategies because I needed to find a way to capitalize on the speed, mobility and the elite aspects that Eldar exemplify. I center my deployment around setting up lightning strikes where I will hurl 3 wave serpents full of Warlocks and Guardians directly at my chosen target from the opposite side of the board. Using appropriate war gear, I can outfit my transports to move 36” in a turn and if necessary contest any objective in the 11th hour. At some point in the future I will record a battle with my Eldar and post the video up to display the deployment types.
When the new edition of 40k drops this summer, I am almost 100% certain I will have to once again alter how I deploy in order to keep up with the new rules and the mission types. That said - we will now lead into the next section of this post – Fantasy.
Warhammer Fantasy Battles:
Where the deployment phase in Warhammer 40k tends to be rather forgiving, in Warhammer Fantasy it is absolutely punishing if you deploy poorly. Deploying poorly does not necessarily mean you are going to lose but it definitely makes the rest of the game rather difficult to get back into position and have your army operate well. In Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition there are six different battle missions where each scenario uses a different deployment zone and victory conditions. I deploy relatively the same for almost all the scenarios due to the fact that just like my Eldar, the Wood elves have the advantage of mobility and speed which far outstrips most of the Warhammer Fantasy armies. The six battle missions are Battleline, Dawn Attack, Battle for the Pass, Blood and Glory, Meeting Engagement and the Watchtower. Of the six battle missions only one of them has a random deployment method which is Dawn Attack, but even then you can still maintain a good strategy for deploying by rolling for each unit and then making the decision as to where they will be placed in their designated area.
I have provided a very basic example of how I deploy with my Wood Elves in order to move and reposition quickly against most opponents. Even if my opponent is very fast, I am still able to get into position with most of my units before the opposing player can cut me off. This type of bait and switch deployment is called “Shifting Flank”. The images below should give you an idea but I will briefly describe what the thought process and methodology is behind this type of deployment.
As you can see the army is deployed just off center and then spreads out heavily on one flank. This deployment will work for all of them with the exception of Dawn Attack due to the randomization of where units go. This will also work well for Meeting Engagement since the diagonal deployment allows you not only shift quickly to one flank but if your opponent has lined up along the opposite 12” line with you, you can easily fly over them and have rear charges set up for the next turn or march block. Getting back to the description, with the army heavily located on one flank (especially the archers) my opponents generally will place their most devastating units directly in front of the units on the right side.
Once the first turn has started for the Wood Elves, I immediately attempt a swift reform with what units I can and with every unit except my archers I move the full movement (either 10”, 18” or 20”) to the opposite side of the board and suddenly my opponent has his entire flank exposed or a good portion. This is exceptionally devastating when my opponent is unable to realign his forces for at least 2 turns in the meantime I have forced certain fights to happen before my opponent was ready or the unit would be steadfast. This type of deployment took many, many games to finally master and now that it works well I am able to really capitalize on the first two to three turns in most games and gain the advantage early on. I can move my very effective melee units where I need them while still peppering key units with spells and ranged fire. The eagles and mounted characters are then able to either flank or rear charge engaged units or hunt warmachines that plague the Wood Elves. The shifting flank does have its issues and against Ogre Kingdoms, Beastmen, Skaven and other Elven armies where you will have to move and act quickly if you deploy in this fashion and wipe out key units otherwise these armies which have movement that matches yours can cut you off before you are able to fully capitalize on your deployment.
Another deployment strategy is using the units appropriately such as my Waywatchers. I have already posted a tactics article on them about how they can be used effectively. I almost always try to remove the heavy cavalry or other mounted units with waywatchers. I encourage the use of the Shifting Flank deployment method for any Wood Elf player. The ability to take flying units, fast moving cavalry and very mobile forest spirit and elven units are a distinct advantage that not many armies can use.
I do hope this article has been helpful and has provided an insight into how my games with Wood Elves go. Please feel free to leave comments and thank you for reading.