Thursday, February 6, 2014

Becoming a better 40k general tactical #1-Winning the pre-game

By Spaguatyrine

With 6th edition comes a new phase of 40K. I call this the pregame phase.
There are often anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of pregame warmups before turn one even starts. In my opinion, whether you win or lose will often be determined by the pregame phase and deployment. I will even be brash enough to say more than 50% of games are won in this critical first 15 to 30 minutes.

Your brain starts a data dump:

This is even before you get to the table! When you do arrive, you say hello to your opponent and plop down your list while sizing up your competition’s list and army. The nerves and butterflies threaten to turn your breakfast into lunch. One of you might try some small talk to break the silence. As you scan each other’s lists, strategies start going through your mind on how you are going to beat his, and beat him as a player. Sometimes players who process more slowly can actually push this introduction phase to more than a few minutes―ultimately helping a game not play to the end. I don’t think this is done on purpose, but I have seen this a lot at tournaments.
The next order of business is to start rolling for deployment zones, warlord traits, psychic powers, etc. One of the most important aspects of the pregame phase is choosing sides based upon terrain, your armies, the mission, etc. With everything that has happened above, we can often forget to take into consideration the terrain layout and how this affects our game, or we just take a quick glance at it. Depending on your army, this is a critical step in the sequence of picking a side, determining turn order and warlord table, rolling for psychic powers and every other little accounting detail.
If you are playing on the table shown here, and it’s the first time you add its information to all of the data being shoved into your head during the pregame phase, you could easily miss some of the advantages of the terrain layout based upon the mission.
Trick #1
Before the tournament starts, walk the ENTIRE game floor and look at each table. While you’re doing this, picture your army on the table and which side has advantages for you. Observe firing lanes, hiding spots, where you might want to place your fortification. Yes, do this for all 100+ tables if necessary. I only spend about 30 seconds on each table, but it mitigates some of the input of data to your brain when you are actually there, giving you more precious time to find a way to beat your opponent. Even a 30-second snapshot greatly reduces stress on your thinking muscle. Plus, sometimes you walk up to a table and there is a 15″ line of sight-blocking building in the middle and you are like, “WTF!” If you’ve already seen it, the shock will not hit you as much as it will your opponent.


Trick #2
Practice against as many different armies as you can. This goes without saying, but search out players who have different armies, ones you normally don’t play against. In 6th edition, all army lists now have counters.

Maybe you have never played against Meganobs with Greentide Orks, or Necron Wraiths, or Mech Guard. Nothing puts more strain on the human brain than being in an unfamiliar situation. When an environment is unfamiliar and the stimuli to our brains is hostile and unknown, we begin to overthink, and that’s when most players make mistakes. There is a reason why Tony Kopach always appears calm beside the tabletop. When our brains are firing normally, we won’t overheat and blow a hose. Even if you crush that Greentide list, having experience to fall back on with your current tournament army against as many other armies as possible will slow the brain drain pregame.
If you do get blindsided by something you have never seen or are unfamiliar with, ask about the basics and ask to keep your opponent’s codex on your side of the table. Ask, What type of unit is that? What weapons and psychic powers do they have? A quick scan of the codex instead of the army list is preferable.

Outsourced Bookkeeping Options

Trick #3
Going second is often a good tactical choice depending on the mission, which army you’re playing, if Night Fight is in effect, etc. If going second, take two different sets of dice. With one set of dice, measure out the max effective range of all stationary units that can hurt you taking into consideration Night Fight cover and the other usual factors. With the second set of dice, measure out the max effective range of all units that can hurt you. This gives you a road map of where you can go and how safely you can deploy. I will also often discuss the deployment with my opponents: “This unit is out of line of sight from that unit, correct?” “By the way, this gives a 3+ cover save.”
Take your time deploying. Being out of position on the top of turn one can cripple you. Picture what your opponent can do after his movement. This is especially important with the new Riptide and Wraithknight models. Picture where they can be and what you can do to counter their shooting.
If you are deploying extremely defensively, a.k.a. staying out of range, DO NOT ROLL TO SEIZE THE INITIATIVE, unless you have the mobility to cause SEVERE damage. This backfires on many players, and they seize and lose because of it.
There are many strategies and tricks to consider as you prepare for a game; reducing the amount of information you have to think about in the pregame phase can ensure your processor doesn’t overheat and make you forget important steps and tactics. Get a routine down and stick to it. However you start a game, develop that routine to help reduce stress and guide your mind to a win.


  1. So: Be prepared, have a plan, and deal with problems before they come up. This article is good advice.

    1. thanks. probably the best way to really get the pregame phase is to play 2 or 3 games instead of 1 in the same time.

      You accomplish this by completing the prephase, and play only 1 or 2 turns. This trains your mind and generalship better than playing full games. And as I stated most games are won by turn 1 or 2 anyways.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks BDS. I will be working on deployment on the next article. In depth reasons why I deploy the way I do.

  3. Great food for thought. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

  4. Why are you re-posting a 4 month old article from Torrent of Fire?

    1. Didn't know I needed your permission to post MY articles.

      The natural progression of a tactical series should start with the pre-phase anyways.

    2. This is OUR blog, Spag. Not just yours. One that was built on original, thoughtful content, and a no-advertising policy. If you want to write something original for TB40K, then go right ahead.

      But if you write articles for Torrent of Fire, you should leave those on their site. We're not a place to re-post the content of other blogs, especially not those that are seeking to profit by conning what’s left of the competitive community into buying their pay-walled data-mined bullshit.

      I’m also wondering why this article is up on Blood of Kittens.

      Are you now hanging with Tasty-Taste too? That’s another association we don’t want TB40K to have.

    3. looks like Tasty's mining content from other sites, like a blogroll of articles. I don't like it, but he IS at least linking to us and giving credit.

    4. Sandwyrm,

      A small amount of us don't give two shits about most of the blogs out there and follow a mere handful these days. This is because we've developed into strong players in our own right and looking for blogs that present a good mix of original thought and decent quality articles is a lengthy and messy process. Theback40k is one of less then half a dozen blogs I look at because the artcicles come off the back of people with a proven track record in one of the larger tournament scenes in the world, but more importantly there's none of this arrogance of "We're in the U.S. we have shit tonnes more players at our events then you Australians, or wherever you're from because we're all shoved close together so our big events are hundreds of players not 60 or so at an upper max so we're obviously better authorities on all things 40k then you and your smaller 40k scene as a result of having closer population densities nerrrrr". This article may be old, but I and others haven't seen it before, and as it's a pre-cursor to a larger series, all the better.

      Of course, you've just demonstrated a level of arrogance to the tune of "Fuck You Spags! You can't just post whatever the fuck you want up here! It's been posted elsewhere. Who cares how relevant it is now even 4 months after the presentation of it originally, you can't post this shit without my permission!"

      And honestly, if you lose Spag's as an author here, you lose a lot of strength to your blog. It's a shared blog. If you want a blog all to yourself, then make one. You have multiple authors - at least have the decency and respect to address issues you believe are issues in private conversation instead of airing it to the whole internet such that we all step back and think "What a fucking tool. Fuck this blog which can't even discuss what should and shouldn't be posted to the theme of the blog and what it wants to promote in private and instead have a go at vilifying its' own authors and authors with incredible tournament records at that." Because that's exactly what it looks like to the rest of teh internetz.



      The article was a good read. I believe you could work in thoughts on list design into this pre-game phase though. most armies have certain ways they play which give them inherent strengths and whilst list writing is not to everyone's strength and many people these days appear to just copy paste armies from the internet, understanding of what the general role or roles if they are able to take on multiple roles on the field depending on the mission/board to hand, is a vital aspect of the strategic game. Your pre-phase game falls into that gentle in between of both the strategic game (the overall game, the overall approach, the plan ahead of time aspect) and the tactical game (the turn by turn game by game aspects) both of which are vital to success and essential factors in a players' ability to improve as a whole. I'm very much curious about the other articles in this series myself - and if some of thoe have been posted elsewhere, all power to them here as well.

    5. @ Auretioustaak

      I appreciate that we're one of the few blogs a lot of people find worthy of checking out. It's taken a lot of work by our family of writers to achieve that. We've gotten to where we are with mostly local writers. meaning, we all live within an hour of each other (except chambers, and now foodie)
      I also take pride in having a semblance of a journalistic approach. Part of that is giving credit and disclosing our involvement in other projects. That includes projects where money gets exchanged for our writing, and disclosing when we're posting articles that were previously used elsewhere.
      I didn't know until Sandwyrm pointed it out, that Spag's article was published for ToF a few months ago. That is fine, but I like to disclose that the article posted here is a repost of an article written for a site. If it was written in exchange for access to thier data mining service, I feel that should also be disclosed, much like Public Broadcasting services are required to disclose when a story is about a major contributor.
      I know, it's technicalities for the average blog reader. It's also something I don't mind people seeing us discuss. IP and disclosure are important issues in today's world. IP especially important, given the recent legal battles GW's been involved with.
      I don't think we're trying to be arses about things, maybe a bit pedantic. I'd rather be thorough than have GW slap us with a cease and desist, or give readers reason to suspect ulterior motives or lazy journalism.

    6. @auretioustaak
      I wish there was a way that I could +1 your reply. Tone can, and often does, mean more than the actual content.
      And thanks for reading despite the horrible background color.

  5. @Taak

    The article itself is quite good, and I probably should have led off my original comment by saying so. In fact, I think that it’s the best article that Spag has ever posted.

    But as I was already annoyed at having my IO logo concerns brushed off, I didn’t bother with such niceties. Call it a clash of egos if you will, but Spag and I aren’t on off-line speaking terms anymore.

    This blog is a pretty special place, with the best commenters, and it’s because we don’t pander to anyone. We don’t chase members or hits, we don’t collect memberships, and we don’t have advertising. Which means that we only write articles when we actually feel like we have something worth saying. You can trust that we always speak our minds, and sometimes that leads to legitimate differences in opinion. Because honesty ruffles feathers.

    There are people who hate arguments, but I am not one of them. Whether you agree or disagree with me, you will always know where I stand. Because I’m honest about my opinions, and I don’t change them based on who I’m with, or what advantage I think I might be able to gain with a particular person.

    So here’s an honest opinion: I hate Torrent of Fire, and everything it stands for as a product. I despise the marketing and lies that have been built around it in an attempt to dupe what’s left of the competitive community into buying their meaningless data dump. I hate that people I once respected have chosen to associate themselves with it. I also know that I’m not the only author here that feels that way.

    Since ToF first came out, Spag has had an ongoing relationship with them, and has received some compensation for their use of his name in their marketing. I understand the reasons why he’s chosen to do that, and I’m sure that he feels that it’s a very reasonable arrangement that benefits the Indy Open. But I can’t agree with it. The goals and ethos of ToF clash with that of The Back 40K, and neither Farmpunk or I want our blog associated with it in any way.

    Obviously, that’s not the only difference that Spag and I have. But it points to the basic clash of values that divides us.

    Despite our differences over the last couple of years, and all the insults thrown around, Farmpunk hasn’t dropped Spag as an author, and I’ve never asked him to. Because ultimately we believe that the honest airing of all views, passionately argued, is a positive force for change in both our hobby, and the world.

    So whether Spag stays or goes is up to him. But if he stays, it’s inevitable that we’re going to continue to argue at regular intervals.

  6. Spag
    A well written piece and I am eagerly awaiting the next installments in what will hopefully be a length series. If I am being honest deployment and the pre-game analysis has always been my weakest aspect of my game. Hopefully you will be able to teach a rock to swim, or at least sink a little less rapidly, with this series.
    If you make it to Adepticon again this year you will have to swing by the looser tables and say hi, they don't allow my kind up by the winner's circle.


out dang bot!

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