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Mobility As A Means To Battlefield Goals

Submitted By: Algavinn of the Many Paths Date: October 12, 2011, 04:28:26 PM Views: 2152
Summary: A short discussion of the theories and use of mobility in protecting your army and the application of it's force for the completion of battlefield goals and victory. Applicable to any army. Article By Algavinn.

NOTE This article was written quite some time back, and while it has been edited appropriately for publication the first two armies given as examples are no longer ones I use and are outdated, however the armies given are there ONLY as examples of the theories and concepts I discuss (therefore are still fully valid).  I do not suggest the specific armies used here nor their particular methods and styles if they are outdated so PLEASE take this into account.  I merely talk about matters of mobility, not specific army builds, just the battlefield problems and solutions that they elicit.  Also, though some have requested, while deployment is a massive part of mobility in any battle I believe it belongs in its own article and not here where I merely briefly touch on a few key concepts of mobility as they pertain to force preservation and application of force.

Original Forum Discussion Thread Here

Mobility As A Means To Battlefield Goals

Today my mind has been on the battlefield goals of every 40k army, and how mine meet them.  My last basics article (now published quite a ways back) may have covered much or even all of what I am writing on today, but I believe this should go into more detail and is inspired from much additional study of war in and out of 40k, as well as designing a whole new army concept for myself that required me to rethink these questions in a different way.  This is really more of an organized set of thoughts than an article so is not as formal and organized as I prefer, so I apologize if it is not as clear and easy to read as you might wish. 

In war there are a few vital variables that contribute to victory, and because in 40k you will almost always be playing against equal ‘sized’ armies, due to weighting by points, and without thought to logistics and supply, mobility becomes among the highest of tactical virtues.  Mobility is often the answer to the ‘how’ you will achieve objectives and destroy your opponent, so specifically this article will address various ways you can use mobility to meet the most important battlefield goals: preserving your own forces somehow, and applying your firepower in whatever form you have to your enemy.

The majority of what I speak on today is fixing, locking, enveloping, and interdicting. These are various means to the ends of victory.  But first, what is our goal in 40k?  Every battle is based on taking and holding objectives, and/or destroying the enemy, so your goal is to figure out how your army is going to do this. 

Mobility allows you to choose when and where to apply force against your enemy, and depending on how you do this you may be able to stop your opponent from doing the same by destroying his most key units (those that threaten you most and those that can score) and stopping him from being able to reposition (be it to escape your grasp or to better apply force against you).  Mobility thus gives you initiative in a battle (if greater than your enemies), letting you choose how it unfolds.  There is seldom a bigger advantage in war than initiative, and the ability to apply force to the enemy. 

An important thing to note, however, is that mobility is not just physical movement.  Mobility is all about delivering your medium of damage to your target, reaching objectives, and avoiding your opponent doing the same.  This means that mobility can be achieved at least in part or augmented by having medium to long range firepower or other effects, on top of the usual physical mobility afforded by foot movement, transports, deep striking/infiltrating, and mobile weapons platforms.  You just have to know the difference between physical mobility, and that which is given by attributes such as weapons range.  While long range weapons will let you touch the enemy even if he runs, it will not allow you to run should he come after you, and will not necessarily stop your opponent from redeploying to array his firepower at you like physical mobility can.  Close combat units, however, have the disadvantage of not being able to damage the enemy until physically reaching them (however you are safe from ranged fire once in CC!).  So the rule/preference with CC units is to either take as few of them as possible/needed so as to avoid having units sitting there doing nothing (such as the all important reactionary CC units; Rough Riders, Shinning Spears, etc.), or to get them to the opponent ASAP in high enough strength to not be overwhelmed and fizzle.

So to apply this to 40k I will detail the above options/principles I listed, as well as a few other important ideas concerning mobility.  My goal is to take out my opponents most threatening units so he cannot destroy me and remove my mobility, and to slow him down/destroy his mobility in order to maintain the initiative and stop him from both being able to capture objectives and direct his firepower at me.

Avoidance and Protection: Nothing is more affective at keeping your force safe than mobility!  No amount of 2+ re-roll-able invulnerable etc. saves will do as well as your enemy simply being too far too close into melee, or unable to get into line of site to use his big guns.  Being able to backpedal away from a CC intensive opponent, denying a ranged opponent more than a turn to fire on you before hacking him apart in combat, or simply being able to reinforce an area or get out of it and avoid a closing noose is simply not something most armies can do with ease but can make the difference between victory and defeat.  This doesn't have to be as substantial as a Saim-Hann army slowly backpedaling and firing the whole game away against an aggressive Ork army, but the ability to step back to avoid a blow and regroup is invaluable.

Fixing/Locking:  In modern warfare in larger scale combat the first thing an army does after finding its opponent is to ‘fix’ the opposing force, which is essentially to engage and hold it so that it will stay relatively in place while the main force arrives to destroy it.  Locking (a non-military term that I personally use) is to directly engage a unit (typically in close combat) so that it MUST face you, and cannot move away from or toward you.  This can apply to just single units, or entire detachments/armies.  Locking a unit on each side of an army can keep the whole army in place for a full frontal attack (see the Bahzhakhain below) or even locking a single unit in CC (like a massive Ork mob) can slow down an entire army.  Be creative!  This is just either done with a whole army in concert, or choosing the right unit for it (bikes, Dire Avengers, Guardians, Terminators, etc. depending on the situation).  See my Locking and Mechanics of the Bahzkhain articles for more in-depth discussion.

Enveloping: Envelopment is the highest achievement of position one can reach in combat other than pursuing a fleeing enemy.  Engaging your opponent on every side so that he cannot escape, cannot get much in the way of reinforcements and is virtually unable to reposition will give you near complete initiative, as long as you have the power to subdue your opponent and a proper approach (ie wrong units in wrong places or biting off more than you can chew: See Lancaster Law).  With my Eldar this is physical envelopment conducted through close combat, leaving my opponent paralyzed.  I would term this Hard Envelopment.  With many other armies, such as my marines, envelopment can be achieved by using firepower from close to far range in a way that your opponent cannot avoid your guns.  This I would term Soft Envelopment.  The opponent can still reposition in order to counter attack, but is still at the mercy of your firepower.

Interdiction: This is stopping your opponent’s movement by direct actions, which can be achieved through many different methods, with the functional goal being to stop him from being able to attain objectives or align his forces to attack you.  One method is to physically block it (I often use drop pods, especially those with Dreads, in front of enemy vehicles), another is to fix/lock the opponent (via CC or enveloping close fire), another is to deep strike/position units among/behind the enemy that forces your opponent to stop and deal with them or suffer critical losses, to deter them by having a powerful kill zone they cannot enter without dire casualties.  And lastly what is often the best method is simply to destroy your opponents’ transports/mobile elements (bikes and jump troops).

Destruction: The above are all methods to slow down your opponent, ultimately to destroy them and stop them from completing objectives.  While employing these you should always be continuing active target priority.  In some scenarios you will need to focus heavily on objectives so taking down your opponent’s mobility will be even more important than usual, or when you do not have the power to destroy the opposing army outright (such as armies especially saturated with vehicles, MC’s, heavy infantry, mass infantry, etc).  The majority of the time, however, you will still be targeting the highest threat unit to you, or it’s medium of transport (i.e. either you will be destroying that highly threatening Basilisk or perhaps the Landraider carrying a squad of assault terminators, thereby lowering or removing them as a threat).


To give specific examples, I will give an overview of my two main armies and a brief description of how they were created with the above goals in mind, and how they used these principles to meet them.  I won’t go into too much detail, especially for those of you who are of the Eldar persuasion and have been a member of this forum long enough to possibly be familiar with my Mechanics of the Bahzhakhain article project, which will have detailed this intensely.  And REMEMBER, these first two lists are for previous versions of rules, so please don’t comment/argue with me about the specifics.  Feel free to yell at me about the third, that’s current.

Autarch on bike + Shinning Spears
Harlequins + Falcon
Banshees + Waveserpent
Dire Avengers + Waveserpent
2x Jetbikes (3+)
Fire Prism

This list is one of the most aggressive armies I have ever seen; in its main incarnation during 4th edition typically moving up to 36” the first turn and completely destroying most static opponents by turn 3-4.  Obviously mobility is highly important here, and you might think that the speed of the transports is plenty enough, but even with a highly static IG-SAFH my opponent would try to redeploy, backpedal, or have a screen of conscripts to meet my assault and try to repeatedly backslide while rapid firing.  My solution was to target opposing transports or at least units that could possibly flank me, and then move to fix and envelope my opponent. 

I started using specifically designed and intended ‘locking’ units, those being semi-resilient (through T/SV or number of models) squads to hold his flanks (here with my jetbikes) so he could not redeploy his entire army or fragment into detachments that I would have to chase down, and then wherever I needed to hold down opposing units by volume so as to not be overwhelmed when assaulting my opponents entire army at once (here with my dire avengers, who might assault multiple squads and use their Exarch’s equipment and abilities to bog down my opponents until more support arrived.  A great way to limit my opponents ability to counter-assault by bogging me down with 30 guardsmen per aspect squad, which would also rob me of future assault bonuses and control of the flow of combat).  Thus my opponent could not reposition or backpedal as his entire army was fixed in place, locked, and then engaged in close combat.  He also could not outflank me as my mobile firepower (through my Waveserpents, Falcon and Fire Prism, also often with Vypers and Jetbikes) would destroy mobile vehicles or I would lock down other mobile elements that might get behind me to weigh down my combats or strike at my vehicles.

Librarian with template and gate +Sternguard drop pod
2x Tactical Squads + drop pods
Dread + drop pod
Landspeeder Typhoon

This army started as a static firepower based army.  I had always wanted to run something of a gun line, but didn’t enjoy doing that much with my Eldar.  This quickly became a difficulty as many of my opponents run aggressive meq mechanized lists, or Orks, so even with high volume firepower I could not stop them in time by just sitting, even with counter assault units in wait.  To solve this problem I started focusing on slowing down my opponent and removing his mobility.  This yielded a number of methods by which I could slow down opponents while attacking every part of their army at once with a combination of deep striking, mobile, and long range units.  The majority of these are as detailed below.

Each game I deep strike one or more of my tactical squads near a target of opportunity to put a dent in a prioritized target, threaten to cause substantial harm to my enemy if ignored, and to use the drop pod to physically block my opponent.  I do the same with my Dread, which is equipped with a heavy flamer and multi-melta, though because it is a vehicle it is even better at blocking my opponent than the Tactical squads.  Catch an opponent trying to go through two pieces of terrain by blocking it off with a Dread and drop pod, and it can slow down that transport/tank for several turns by having to go around or stop to destroy these hurdles, and the resulting wrecks may still obstruct!

The Dread and Tactical squad, as well as my whole supporting fire base typically prioritizes my opponent’s transports if it is an aggressive/mobile army.  During my last game on turn one against mechanized Dark Angels I destroyed/immobilized two Rhinos and a Razorback, and blocked a Land Raider and Rhino with my drop pod/Dreadnaught on turn one.  He still eventually got his forces to me but this slowed him down by at least two to three turns, forcing him to disembark some troops to fight me, and go around the road block with others. (I will admit I was defeated that game, curse you terminators with Belial, a Chaplain, AND a medic!  However I did maul him at least…)

With the powerful Vindicator, Sternguard, and Terminators usually in mid field advancing on my opponent or laying in wait, my opponent is put in a difficult spot in that if he tries to advance he has strong units attacking him from the rear/middle of his column with my deep strike units, and from the front.  Should he do this he is likely to suffer considerable casualties, especially if some units are held back to deal with forces in his rear, which may cause him to have inadequate forces to attack my main force.  Should he stop to deal with them, it slows him down and gives me more time to fire from range.  With mobility, placement, and firepower (or threat there of) I thusly manipulate his mobility and actions, giving me the initiative and ability to apply my firepower under the best circumstances available.

With these two rather disparate styles we see examples of different ways mobility can be used to destroy the opponent, and ways to stop his mobility.  These two armies have different kinds of need for mobility, and different specific reasons to destroy their opponent’s mobility.  The Eldar must get to their opponent and stop them from running in order to apply the brunt of their power.  The Marines must stop the opponent from getting to them, and slow them down in general to gain more firing time.  Depending on the type of army you face, and what kind of scenario you play, your target priority will shift between your opponent’s mobility and his killing units. The mantra is nothing but stop your opponent from being able to apply damage when are where he wishes, and let nothing prevent you from directing as much of your fire at your opponent for as much of the game as possible/is prudent.

Sometimes if you destroy your opponents’ mobility, he will never get to apply his attacking forces against you (mech CC or close fire armies, for example), while others are ranged and if you use your mobility to get to them quickly (IG-SAFH, aka IG gun line) and engage in CC, they won’t get to use their firepower for more than one, perhaps two turns in the whole game.  Thus with mobility, you hamstring your opponent and can finish the game at will (just envision your opponents army strapped to a table, scalpel in your hand). 

Marines Two:
These days I do run a far more mobile Marine force, but it uses the same general principles, albeit with a more aggressive style, which more approximates the Bahzhakhain rush (just with guns instead).  I’ll give you all a quick run down as a third example, which is something between the two styles above, and is actually a current army style I employ.

Librarian+Sternguard in pod
Dread in pod
2xTactical in pod
2xLand Speeder Typhoon

This Marine army has many of the same elements as its precursor, but is more of a mobile close fire army, whereas the Bahzhakhain is a mobile CC army.  Either the Dread and Sternguard will drop first to take out a target of extreme threat/value (Landraider filled with Terminators, or a war machine for example), or the Tactical squads will drop to obstruct view to my advancing vehicles by jumping on a heavy weapons squad, or other unit I don’t want to move and creating havoc and destruction.  The Vindicators and Landspeeders advance and take down targets of priority or transports, while the army as a whole moves in for the kill.  The second wave of drop pods will home in on where support is needed or catch fleeing elements. 

Here locking units are not nearly as needed because the army is generally mobile, and has a bit of weapons range, so the combination of the two allows for the army to fix the enemy very quickly and unleash almost full firepower much of the time.  The drop pods and Sternguard+Librarian and Dread have infinite mobility matched with disgusting amounts of power so may be used to crush the spine of the enemy right away (albeit in a potentially sacrificial fashion, but this is enough).  This army does sometimes leave more of a chance to sustain enemy fire, however, without as much of the safety in CC or the range of the other Marine list.  It can be played more conservatively, however, when needed.

In Review:

-Army number one uses high movement mobility, matched with fixing and locking to sink the full weight of combat ability into the enemy, and reduce/eliminate the opponents’ ability to inflict damage or reposition.  Some ranged weapons are used for support and special tasks, as well as for interdiction by destroying transports and fleeing units.

-The opposing IG army uses a conscript screen for interdiction of disembarking CC units and attempts to slow and envelope enemy transports.  Ranged firepower is used to try to take down transports and CC units once disembarked, and protect their own ranged units such as Basilisks.  Backpedaling on foot while using close to medium range weapon fire is used to maintain distance while gaining more firing time, in combination with mobile units like Rough Riders to attempt to counter my mobility by attempting to tar pit in with10-30 Guardsmen on a single one of my attacking squads at once, taking control and causing damage when CC is inevitable for them. (This I counter by multiply assaulting with resilient locking units like Dire Avengers, Bikes, etc.  Methods detailed in Bahzhakhain links above.)  As such we can see that even ‘static’ armies can still use mobile elements, or perhaps it is better to say counter-mobility tactics and elements, which are just as important as mobility.

-The first Marine list uses the absolute mobility of drop pods to both cause crippling damage to the enemies most threatening units, and/or destroy and block transports, or just block/lock ranged firepower units.  These units also slow the enemy by making them slow down to deal with them before advancing (if they are mobile) or suffer continued damage from a rear flanking unit(s).  Ranged firepower drops enemy transports or ranged fire threats.  Ranged firepower mixed with Terminators deter opponents from getting too close with high degrees of firepower, with Terminators actually intercepting anyone who gets close. 

-The second Marine list uses the same absolute mobility of drop pods in the same way, while achieving a more aggressive fashion of fixing the opponent and chasing them down with even greater firepower and mobility.  Highly mobile enemies are caught with a mixture of vehicle speed and ranged anti-tank weapons.  Less mobile enemies are caught with drop pods, vehicle speed, and medium ranged firepower; ultimately leading to close envelopment.

In writing this, one of my goals is to get more of you to break out of seeing the army you put on the table as just a number of units which you connect to an opposing target one at a time, and see it as a synergistic and singular entity that can work together to achieve results infinitely beyond simple target priority.  It is my view that army lists should be a somewhat complex answer to many questions and battlefield problems, such as how you will score, how you will stop your opponent from scoring, if you should be concerned with scoring at all, etc.  When you create your army as a solution to a problem it becomes a themed and synergistic entity that is far more powerful than a collection of units with no greater aspirations than target priority.

I know this was something of a jumble, and far less organized than most of my articles, so please do post comments or questions, in this article or via PM.  This article should be read along side my other article concerning the mixing and application of different kinds of force Here in the projects forum, though it is not published or finished yet. 

Lastly I am sure there are methods and elements of mobility I have left out, either that I haven’t thought of or I just don’t use in my army styles.  If you have one you think I haven’t included but is a wide scoping mobility tactic which isn’t just how you use a specific unit of a specific army, etc. please let me know and we can add it.

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