Winning Games in AOS 3: Battle Tactics

Battle tactics are a Very. Big. Deal. There are generally fewer VPs up for grabs on Objectives now: it’s hard to run up a huge gap on primaries alone. What we’ll probably find is that for the next 6 months or so, a lot of games at events will be decided by Battle Tactics; and more specifically, by denying them to your opponent.

First Principles

Fact is, you only need 5 from 8, and most of them are easy. We’ve probably all had that initial moment of excitement:

  • Skim read them
  • I can do that! And that! And that!
  • I’m gonna get all of them!
  • I’m awesome at this! AOS 3 rocks, and I’m gonna be THE BEST at it!

So what will separate the pack isn’t just scoring them – any gronk can do that. What I’ll be focussing on is denying them. We’re all learning new skills here, but my belief is that what wins you games is getting a couple of Battle Tactics swings in your favour.

There are a couple of other things that jump off the page:

  • Monsters get bonuses in 5 of the 8 Battle Tactics. If you can score an extra 5 VPs, that can be like playing Focal Points 5 games in a row.
  • Monster Hero Invincible Undercosted Overpowered Wrecking Balls are therefore in a great spot. Morathi and Archaon will always win loads of events, but from a Destruction viewpoint, Sons of Behemat and Beastclaw aren’t hating life right now.
  • You also get Bonus VPs for killing Monsters both in general, and as a Battle Tactic. Weak monsters (e.g. Mancrushers) can therefore be something of a liability, and at the very least need to be handled carefully.

Pushing Morathi forward is obviously, as always, going to be an easy route to success and doesn’t warrant much more discussion. So let’s jump into the detail of how each Battle Tactic works, and how we can plan ahead to deny those sweet, sweet VPs to the chump across the table.

I’ve marked an (M) next to all of those that get bonus VPs for Monsters. Ready? Let’s go.

Credit: @SedoFerre

Early Game

Broken Ranks (M)

Kill one specific Battleline unit of your choosing, preferably with a Monster

This one could have a very, very interesting impact on the shape of a game, specifically in that it turns your chaff into a liability. You might even need to use an elite unit to screen your chaff and stop them bleeding out VPs, similar to the old Better Part of Valour.

How to counterplay: If your opponent still has this one up their sleeve, the obvious thing to do is screen off your Battleline units. This puts non-Battleline chaff at a premium, so the likes of Gnoblars and Hobgrots will be laughing all the way to an early grave.

All the standard anti-combat stuff like chucking Shackles in front of them, or saving your Redeploy to make the charge harder on the one named unit, is money in the bank.

Rugged Battleline is great for this, so Stonehorn Beastriders are in good shape, but most normal armies will have to use at least one unit of minimum junk due to the reinforcement rules.

That being the case, you’re probably looking at using them as bait: if you can’t avoid losing them and giving up the VPs, at least run your unit into the middle of nowhere (miles from Objectives) so your opponent has to choose which VPs they achieve and which they forego.

Then you’ve got the classic trading game: set your chaff up with a hammer unit 2.5″ behind it, so that if you do lose a unit, they end up losing one in return. Take the jab, and come back with the haymaker.

Most of the above counterplay goes out the window if your opponent is running some kind of Order gunline, in which case they can just point and click your unit off the board with no fear of retribution. That’s why shooting is significantly easier to win games with, but that’s just Age of Sigmar unfortunately.

The important thing is, if you can play around it, do so; and you usually can.

Credit: Games Workshop

Ferocious Advance (M)

Run a few units close to each other, and if they’re Monsters then even better.

How to counterplay: Bring KO and shoot off some Mancrushers? There’s not much you can do to prevent this other than bringing all the shooting and popping off vulnerable Monsters early on, which I’m sure even the netlisters could figure out for themselves.

The main thing, then, is thinking about what this does to the shape and flow of the game. If they have multiple foot-slogging Monsters, they are probably concentrating all their power in one area, so you can plan around that appropriately.

There is an opportunity to set traps here for your opponent: setting up a chaff screen in front of the where you anticipate the concentration of Monsters will be is just teeing them up for the eezy peezy Ferocious Advance -> Broken Ranks one-two punch. That might seem like dangerous AOS 2 thinking that will get you cut down, but it can be worthwhile in the right circumstances.

Specifically, if you develop your screen into No Man’s Land in front of the Objectives, with a counterpunching hammer unit (or overwatching dakka) perched in behind, the extra VP that Broken Ranks gives up is offset by the one they miss on the Objective, and then the one you get for killing a Monster. So anticipate how the shape of the board will look one turn later and you should find that you’ve drawn out the sting of the easiest Battle Tactics, and given up those VPs but gained them back elsewhere.

Credit: @Slowpainterloz

Aggressive Expansion

Take two Objectives that aren’t in your endzone – those on the centreline do count.

This is quite nicely judged as a disincentive to the classic “outdrop your opponent, make them go first and double them”. If you get sent in at the top of Round 1, you’re flying.

How to counterplay: As a Sons of Behemat player, I’m not hating this: it turns a lot of Battleplans into “screw with the scoring” missions. Use your Kraken-Eater to kick Objectives into your opponent’s territory, and they’re fucked. Glorious.

If you’re not running Kraken-Eaters, then frankly I feel sorry for you, and you should probably sell all your armies and join the Destruction family. But failing that, this one does offer a reason to take first turn – and if your opponent outdrops you and puts you in first, grab this one with both hands and cheap throwaway units.

Monstrous Takeover (M)

Control an objective with a Monster nearby – as long as there are no enemy Monsters nearby.

Note that this one can only be achieved by Monsters – but doesn’t get an extra VP for that Monster.

How to counterplay: kill their Monsters before they can do it, although you want to do that anyway if you have the tools. And of course getting your own (durable) Monsters onto the objectives switches this off for your opponent – so even if you’re up against something as fearsome as Archaon, you can deny this one simply by screening off your own Monster (using Redeploy if necessary), and standing back out of range of his second pile in.

This is also another one that is easier to score early doors, when your opponent hasn’t had a chance to get any Monsters up into position, so it’s another good consolation prize if you have to go first.

Credit: Games Workshop

Mid Game Onwards

Conquer

Steal an objective that your opponent holds

Dead easy: rewards you for doing what you wanted to do anyway. Pick an objective that they hold, and take it off ’em. A great one if you do to take a low-drop army and force your opponent to go first – plus ça change.

How to counterplay: Zoning out objectives, so they can’t get onto them? Yeah that works, and it has done for 6 years and counting. The big thing to remember here is using Redeploy on the nominated one that matters – either stepping forward in front of the objective, so they can’t get onto it, or stepping back and giving them a window to fail that charge onto it.

You will have to be savage in your decisions: Do you throw a crucial unit under the bus on the other side of the table, to save your one Redeploy for zoning out the key Objective? I can’t make that decision for you, but depending on the game state you might just have to. At the very least, you need to be aware of the choice you are making here.

Bring It Down (M)

Kill a Monster, badda bing.

How to counterplay: Your problem is that if you screen your Monster off, they’ll pick Broken Ranks instead. Unless they’ve already picked that one, in which case off you go. This is a good illustration of the cat and mouse mini game that these well-designed Battle Tactics has created: even though Broken Ranks is generally an easy one to score early on, keeping it up your sleeve makes your opponent’s life hard, because it transforms their chaff into a liability and keeps it that way deep into the game.

Most often, you’ll just want to make your Monsters as durable as possible, and maybe even avoid taking the vulnerable ones altogether.

This thing is quite good, if you hadn’t already heard

Savage Spearhead (M)

Just run two units into your opponent’s turf

I’ve included this as a midgame option because few armies will want to fling their units blindly into the middle of the table, waiting to be chopped down, although it’s really one you can score at any time – especially if your army is highly durable, or you’re just trading away crap.

How to counterplay: Almost impossible to stop outside of a few edge cases such as Host Duplicitous and Bonegrinz. Or vigorously and rapidly tabling your opponent, that works too.

I would personally save this one for a late game scramble in a game where I was battling against the odds – there are harder (or at least more situational) ones that I would would get out of the way first, then use this for last-gasp guaranteed VPs right before you get tabled. After the Round 3 Objective has evaporated you’ll likely have units that are liberated to run up the flanks, so my thoughts are that this is another Ace to hold onto for a turn or two in most cases.

Niche

Slay The Warlord (M)

Kill their chosen General

Only shooting armies need apply. Unless you’re on track to table your opponent, you’re most likely looking at killing their most durable piece, with a 5++ Amulet of Destiny, All Out Defence and screens for days. Good luck.

Note that this one refers to the chosen general, so “counts as” Generals such as Kragnos are not in scope. If your opponent has a little dweeb as their General, or you have a heap of Dakka, it’ll be very obvious that this is in play. If it’s not, it’s not.

Credit: @JamesFi82729316

Putting It In Practice

So after pontificating at length about how the smart play is to think about Battle Tactic denial, and only peabrains focus on hoovering them up – I’m going to focus on hoovering them up.

I’m really excited about Sons of Behemat under this Battlepack, for a couple of reasons:

  • Firstly, Giants were on the cusp of being competitive, but often died that one turn too early to build a sustainable lead on VPs.  Any overall decrease in lethality, even if slight, could get them over the line in one extra game per event.  In this context, regular healing, curbs on deathstar units, removal of crutch Battalions and perhaps most importantly, access to the 5++ Artefact on a 35 (or 40) wound model all give them that little nudge towards surviving for 3 turns.
  • The vast majority of Battleplans have only 3 or 4 Objectives (which drop by one in Round 3), and you only need to control a majority (not all of them).  So a small unit count is not an inherent problem: you don’t need to be everywhere at once, especially when you can kick Objectives around with you.
  • You have a couple of “outs” in games where the you don’t want to (or can’t) charge.  A Gatebreaker with 40 wounds and a 5++ ward should be geared up to charge down high-output gunlines that you can’t ignore; in most other games, you should be able to keep the scoreboard ticking over with passive Battle Tactics so that the pressure is on your opponent to come to you, and open up opportunities.

Sons absolutely still have the option of going balls to the wall, and rushing all four Mega-Gargants forward at breakneck speed.  Smash up their chaff, then you’ve got a huge priority roll on your hands. 

But what I love about Sons right now is that in other games, where you are punished for (or entirely prevented from) charging, you can build a decent lead on VPs without overcommitting.  So what would a standard pathway through the Battle Tactics look like?

Round 1: Ferocious Advance.  I’m running 3 of my 4 Megas near to each other, and you can’t stop me.  2 VPs in the bank and I’m probably kicking an objective back towards the corner.

Round 2: Monstrous Takeover.  Control basically any Objective for another easy VP, and the scoreboard pressure is already building.  Remember that Objective we kicked backwards turn 1?  Well that hopefully means that one is out of reach of your enemy’s Monsters, and a lock for these easy points.

These first two Battle Tactics really are interchangeable: I generally prefer Ferocious Advance first, because it gives you more turns to get back into position when shit is getting real, but if there’s a chance that they’ll get durable Monsters on all of your Objectives early then you’ll want to wrap this one up first. 

I’d be looking to push forward my Gatebreaker at this point – and depending on the board state maybe some additional support, ready for the big priority roll.

Round 3: OK this is where an Objective disappears, and hopefully we’ve created a “Heads I win, Tails you lose” situation. 

  • If we win the roll off, we probably remove their Objective, and nurse the VP advantage we already hold. 
  • If they win and make us take priority, we’re switching gears and ready to punish them with those tanks we have parked on their front lawn.

So we’re looking at a final push forward here while we still have some units left, most likely Broken Ranks: smash some chaff for 2 VPs, don’t mind if I do!

Round 4: Savage Spearhead.  Depending on the board state, we’ll look to run up into their Territory while we still have two Megas left, and that’s another 2 VPs. 

If they have Monsters that are weaker than ours, we’ll make a beeline for them and aim to harvest some VPs for killing them.

Round 5: Hopefully you’re too far ahead to be caught at this point, so let’s round it out by grabbing a couple more VPs with Bring It Down.  Kill a Monster (+1), with a Monster (+1)…so you’ve killed a Monster (+1) in that Battleround which always nets a VP here in Ghur. 

Great for clinching a tight game, great for running up the scoreboard and boosting your overall standing at the event.

So that gives you an idea of how I’d be playing Sons: in a word, passively.  You can build up a lot of VPs without needing to impale yourself onto a far better unit that will just backhand you off the board, or shoot you off on your own turn. 

In other matchups you’ll be fine to play the standard AOS 2 “Fight them on Objectives” playstyle – Nurgle springs to mind – but Giants have the flexibility to mix it up and should be “in” almost every matchup, one way or another.

Further Reading

Goonhammer have covered the importance of Battle Tactics to winning games – really laying it out mathematically.

Meanwhile, Warhammer Weekly put out a great show that can help turbocharge your AOS 3 thought patterns:

Final Thoughts

Scoring your Battle Tactics – and perhaps more importantly, disrupting your opponent’s – will have a huge impact of the flow of a typical game. I don’t think it realistic to aim for 5-zip on Battle Tactics unless you’re playing against an absolute spud; but as a rule of thumb, I’ll be aiming to score all of mine while disrupting a couple of theirs. For example, if I can score all five (four of them with Monster bonuses), and limit my opponent to three, that’s a pretty big headstart on what are now significantly lower-scoring primary Objectives.

For the armies I play, I simply wouldn’t turn up to an event without at least one big Monster now. It’s true that a single megachad like Archaon can hoover up a lot of these in sequential turns on his own, and if I had access to him, that’s what I’d probably do. But if your Monster isn’t functionally immortal, you’re going to want a couple of them, so you have a strong chance of registering those bonus VPs right through to the business end of the game.

I wish I could give you a flow chart of which Battle Tactics to select in which sequence for every game, but AOS has never been as simple as the T9A crowd seem to think it is. But there are a couple of pointers that will stand us all in good stead:

  • It starts at list building, and the table is tilted to durable, hard-hitting Monsters (emphasis on the durable)
  • We all know about sacrificing units to play the Objective – now we need the mindset of sacrificing units to play the Battle Tactics too
  • Redeploy is clutch and your single strongest tool
  • Think dynamically and set up traps: if you can’t deny the Battle Tactic, make it come at a cost. Let your opponent learn the hard way that they can have it if they want it, but it costs them something

This last one is the going to be a skill we’ll all grow into, but if you’re already thinking in those terms, you’re ahead of the pack. Put your opponent in a position that securing the Tactic means they will lose their own unit in return, or be pulled out of position away from the Objective and away from chaining into the next Battle Tactic on their next turn.

I can’t tell you it’s going to be easy, but I do believe it’s going to give a lot of opportunities for skill to determine the outcome of the game, and perhaps best of all: a lot of great stories.

Can’t wait.

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