Friday, October 14, 2011

Talkin Tactics 6- Damn Drop Pods....

So, after an extended hiatus, I decided to finally sit down and put fingers to keyboard for another installment of "Talkin Tactics". Its been a little while since my last post, or any post for us here at the Forgotten Chapter, and I just wanted to say that its not because we have gotten bored the posting or have lost the will or desire, its merely because many of our lives have had huge changes occur in the past couple of months, and those changes have kept us quite preoccupied. But, after having a couple of really fun 2 on 2 games, we at the Forgotten Chapter began to get the "bug" again for writing, especially after it took me an extra ten minutes in deployment just to bubble wrap my imperial guard Leman Russ tanks with a crap load of guardsmen just to keep my friend from being able to drop pod his dreadnought close enough to melta my tanks. After realizing how vulnerable almost any army can be to a drop pod assault, I began to mentally formulate a discussion on the different tactics involved with using drop pods. I have been wanting to write this article for a while now, and that game gave enough spark to finally force my hand to shake with desire to write. But enough about how and why, lets get into the tactics.

Anyone who has ever played any type of game with me, whether it be 40k, gears of war, halo, or any other type of militaristic or tactical style of gaming knows that I am more of a
shock and awe, sneaky, surprise attack, quick and swift, get in and out with maximum damage and effect inflicted as quickly as possible." I dont like slow and lumbering armies,(even though I do have a guard army... I love irony) and am not a fan of armies that just come barreling at the enemy with a wall of mech and flesh. My tactics are more in line with my favorite martial art that I have practiced for years. Ninpo (Ninjitsu) teaches to be stealthy and smooth, only attacking at the right time and on your own terms. To attack quickly and take your opponent down effectively without having a long drawn out boxing match. These tactics are evident in my armies and in the way I play 40K. Drop pods are such a device that can deliver a quick and powerful hit very quickly, and can change the course of an attack and a battle almost instantly. Drop pods are effective for many different reasons, and because I dont want to make this a novel, I will try and talk about three reasons that I feel make them the most relevent in the game. The first, and I think most important reason is its ability to deliver its cargo almost anywhere on the battlefield quickly and effectively in a SURPRISE attack style of assault. Next, is its ability to keep its cargo safe while it deep strikes onto the battlefield, and lastly is its ability to block lanes of movement and fire, forcing the enemy to redirect their forces to either destroy or go around the drop pod and its inhabitants. All of these reasons ultimately force your opponent to adapt and change his tactics and plans to try and deal with the drop pod assault. The last minute change in tactics and planning is something that I LOVE to do to my opponent, becuase it makes them frustrated and forces them to think on their feet, often causing them to make mistakes. I also love forcing my opponent to think differently, challenging them to use different tactics and strategies, making them think about the game from a different angle.
The drop pod assault tactic, even if your just using one drop pod, starts effecting your opponent's strategy even in the deployment stage. Your opponent must try and protect valuable units and objectives, forcing him to reallocate and reorganize their units, while still trying to deploy in an optimum manner to maximize the impact of their strategy. Forcing the opponent to devote resources to something that is not even on the board yet is crucial in giving your army an upper hand. It lets you adapt to their deployment by seeing how they have deployed and in turn dropping your drop pods in an area that will cause the most damage. After deployment as been done by both sides, the drop pod assault still gives you the flexibility to slightly adapt to the deployment of your enemy whether you deployed first or second. If you deployed first, you may see where the tactical weaknesses are in your deployment in relation to your enemy's army and may see that your enemy plans on "flanking" a side or point on the battlefield, or may try and stack units in a specific area for a spearhead attack. Whatever the reason, the drop pod assault lets you add another unit to a possibly weak flank, or will let you bolster a position after all forces have been deployed and you can see the strengths and weaknesses of your deployment and your enemy's.

If you deploy second, and end up going bottom of turn, then the drop pod assault can help you reinforce a position that may have gotten damaged or weakened by the enemy's previous round of shooting or assault. We all have seen what an awesome round of shooting can do to a couple of troops units and your wonderful armoured division of tanks and transports. It is nice to be able to reinforce those lines if need be. Of course, regardless of where you use the drop pod, the whole point is to maximize the impact of the drop pod and its cargo on the enemy. Being able to drop a dreadnought with a multi-melta and a strength ten power claw deep into enemy territory to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting imperial guard army is awesome! Especially becuase now you are forcing your opponent to devote a certain amount of resources at the drop pod and its inhabitants instead of being able to devote those resources to the original strategy and objectives. Another good tactical advantage of the drop pod assault comes with being able to deep stike a unit first turn. Being able to deliver a unit right at your enemy's front line turn one is an awesome ability, and can make any game that much more exciting.
Deep strike can be a finnicky rule, and I hate to say that I know myself and the people I game with would rather not use it unless there are other rules that apply that reduces the risks involved with deepstriking units. Drop pods definitely reduce the risk of deepstrike mishaps by eliminating the mishap chart altogether. The rules for drop pod assaults say that if the drop pod cannot land in the area after the scatter dice has been rolled, it must be moved back until it can be placed in open, unobstructed terrain. This rule completely circumvents the deep strike mishap table, making sure that your units are not destroyed if they scatter over enemy models or impassable terrain. The only thing you have to worry about is scattering off of the board, which I think is an acceptable risk. The ability to ensure that your unit will arrive within about 12" of where you want it to is awesome, and gives you the option to drop your cargo almost wherever you need it to be dropped, given certain restrictions of course (it cant land on models or terrain). The stability and reliability that the drop pod gives also makes deep striking a unit into the heart of the enemy that much more appealing, and opens the doorway for many different types of assault based strategies and tactics.

Finally, a certain tactic that annoys the crap out of me when I play my guard against any army with a drop pod, involves dropping the drop pod right in between two pieces of terrain to block a given path, which in turn will "bottleneck" most mech heavy armies, forcing them to move into difficult terrain and taking dangerous terrain tests where its only a matter of time before vehicles get stuck. (A nice little side note to this tactic of blocking off open terrain is that if you force a mech heavy army to move into difficult terrain, and the vehicles are organized as squadrons, then it makes the idea of moving forward that much more dangerous. Vehicles formed into a squadron are at a disadvantage when moving through terrain, because if they fail their dangerous terrain test, then that vehicle is not just immobilized, it is abandoned by its crew and considered wreckage as a result of the "squadron" special rule.) The drop pod can literally force a mech heavy army to completely change its whole movement strategy, just becuase one model has blocked a clear path. In addition to changing its movement plan, target priority may be changed as well. If you decide to drop a dreadnought deep behind enemy lines right next to your opponent's Manticore or Land Raider, your going to force that opponent to deal with that dreadnought, drawing a lot of fire that would otherwise be directed at the rest of your advanceing army. The enemy cannot ignore something like a dreadnought, cause it has the ability to not only destroy vehicles, but can also tie up troops and even contest objectives that are deep in your own territory.
There are so many possibilities that the Drop Pod assault opens up, and maybe in future posts I will highlight more specific tactics, but for now its time to start wrapping it up. There are definite disadvantages to the drop pod assault. There is always a chance that the drop pod will scatter off the board and be destroyed, or that the drop pod scatters so far away that the element of surprise, the ability to block lanes of fire, and the ability to get in close to the enemy are absolutely ruined. Dont expect for the drop pod assault to always work, or that the tactics will always play out like you thought they would. Just like in real war, the battlefields of 40k are still a place where even the most probable liklihoods can still fail, and every outcome is still left up to the randomness of war (or in our case, dice). No plan is always fool proof, but I guarantee that any army with a drop pod or two will definitely keep its opponent on its feet, not knowing where the next drop pod will land and what typ of problems and challenges it will cause. I feel already like a follow up post will be needed for this topic, but that will be left for another day. I hope this post has helped to satisfy the thirst for some good tactical discussions, and if it seems like im off my game a little, im still trying to shake some of the "ring rust" that comes with not posting for a couple of months. To all my 40k brethren, keep rolling the dice and remember to accept every challenge and have fun at all costs.

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