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.
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.
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.
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.
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