Friday, December 14, 2012

Reach Tactica for Units in Warmachine and Hordes

There are many abilities outlined on the cards of those little men we put on the table for table top games.  In this article I'd like to examine the reach ability, specifically applying its strengths in units of Warmachine and Hordes.

So let's start with what "Reach" is.  It is the ability to engage another model in melee from 2" away or in some cases further.  The base melee range of models is only 0.5", so this can be a major benefit in adding threat range to charges, and engaging past a screening model to engage another behind it.

For accurate examples, I've used the Vassal module to illustrate some tactics and uses of this ability.

For starters, although this game is predominantly a skirmish game, this doesn't mean that formations are not useful.  So let's talk about some formations and their benefits and weaknesses.

The Line Formation:

Notice the broken command rng when trying to screen.
This formation is exactly how it sounds.  A straight line.  This formation has only 1 strength, offense.  Keeping all of your assets up front will allow all of them to typically get engaged or charge at the same time.  This is generally fine if you have room for it across the front line, but also exposes the entire unit to incoming fire and if you are out-threatened they will all die at the same time.  One of the biggest problems is when you try to screen or absorb charges, this formation fails badly, often ending up with you not being able to position optimally to protect themselves or other models.

The Box:

The Box formation is a basic formation that is versatile and can quickly shift into other shapes as needed.  As such, this is typically how I begin the game, as opposed to the line formation.  This formation sacrifices offensive punch for versatility.
Open Box with kill zone in the middle
With the open box, the center of the formation is a kill zone that in order to cross, your opponent will suffer free strikes.  In this opening of the formation, the models are far enough apart to minimize blast damage, while only exposing part of the formation to potential charges, and keeps some far enough that range attacks might fall short.
The Box can also shift to screen itself.  2 models with reach are usually enough to protect those behind. In order for the swordsmen to charge the unit, only the 2 front models can be charged without taking free strikes.

The Triangle:

In historical relevance, a triangular formation was often considered a Spearhead.  I have chosen not to call this formation by that name because it's really upside down in this game.
This is a very defensive formation.  The front 3 models screen a large area behind them, careful to remain in command range, protecting other models form their unit or others from charges.  With command 9, there is no need for more than 3 models to be out front.  Any more exposes more models to being mowed down, without any real benefit.  In this case, you can see there are still charge lanes open between large enough for a large base model.

This is usually the formation I'll use when I want to run and engage, since once engaged, the rear models are primed to screen the flanks and charge later.
Only one model in the unit remains free to respond however they want

Running and Engaging:
At times, you'll want to run and engage.  In this case, you're either trying to tie up range models, who likely have only a 0.5" melee range, or it is your last resort.  Luckily, reach models are brilliantly made for this.

Whenever possible attempt this:
Notice that if the model in the middle tries to move anywhere, it will take a free strike.  So not only is he engaged, but he can't even hit anything.

Essentially, using the screening techniques above, you should be able to do a heck of a lot of engaging with only 3 models, while the others are able to screen the flanks to help protect the unit.  This should minimize casualties, or at least make it a real mess for your opponent.

Happy Gaming!

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